This short article is an attempt to view the Thomas tradition from a Biblical perspective with an analytical lens. Hence this should not be treated as a stand-alone article but must be read in conjunction with other historical information which are not stressed or cited in here.
I. Why is it so Difficult to Believe in Thomas-Malabar Connection
The apostle Thomas found it difficult to believe the Resurrection of his Master from death until he saw Him personally. Today modern “scholars” find it even more difficult to believe in the apostleship of Thomas to Kerala. Why is it so difficult to believe in the Kerala Christianity as started from the first century?
Even today after so many archeological evidences have come up to corroborate the Middle East connection of Malabar Coast from the BC period, so many skeptics still adamantly deny this historical fact as hoax. It is true that tradition as such is not to be trusted unless otherwise proved to be fact supported by the other branches of knowledge.
In this article I try to see the Thomas tradition analytically from the point of view of the foundation of all knowledge; the Bible. The Biblical historical facts together with the latest archeological evidences strongly point to the Thomas tradition as a fact.
When the Problem Started?
It has become a modern scholarly fashion to deny anything and everything in the fields of literature and history. This tendency takes the force of a tornado when it comes to religion and Bible. Whatever was established as absolute truth in the past centuries have become suddenly the object of much disputation and doubts. Hence we hear great scholars claiming that Moses never existed, Joshua never existed, Isaiah never existed, Hittites never existed, gospels were not written by the apostles etc, etc.
Even in modern times one hears that Shakespeare never wrote the plays which are credited to his name throughout the previous centuries! This is the modern scholarship! When one considers this “modern” phenomenon, one gets to know the real cause BEHIND this development and can pinpoint it as ……the theory of evolution!! Yes, it has revolutionized the modern scholarship so thoroughly that today whoever opposes this “theory” is considered as “uneducated”. This theory (which works BEHIND the modern scholarship) in history and literature goes something like this: that the modern human beings are at the latest stage of advanced evolutionary spectrum and the ancient people were not as “evolved” as we are in intellectual faculty and hence we cannot depend on their statements and historical records.
In the Biblical textual criticism, one scholar named Julius Wellhausen changed all the previously held concepts. He claimed that Moses never wrote the Pentateuch, that in fact the Old Testament was orally transmitted fables which were recorded at different periods in time by different people and that the Pentateuch is a “synthesis” of at least four traditions (Yahwist, Elohist, Priestly and Deuteronomical). Gradually this spirit of distrust on the word of God spread to almost all the books in the Bible.
This is in spite of the fact that Jesus Himself claimed emphatically several times that “Moses WROTE” the Pentateuch (John 5:46, Mark 10:5 as examples). So either Jesus is a liar or Wellhausen is a liar. But if Jesus is a liar then we do not have a Savior, there is no Messiah, there is no redemption, there is no Christianity and there is NO NASRANIS! Then those ancient prophets and apostles who forsook everything including their family and ultimately gave up their lives for the name of Christ were all idiots and fools!
But the modern archeological excavations have been proving time and again that the persons, the places, the races and the incidents are as historical as what is happening today. Moreover, archaeology has proven that the art of writing was used even before Moses’ time. Moses could write the Law because he “was instructed in all the wisdom of Egyptians and was powerful in words and in works” (Acts 7:22). Remember Egypt was the super power when Moses was raised as the son for 40 years in the palace of Pharaoh (Acts 7:23). So God made sure that he got the best education available!!
Wellhausen and Thomas
This same Wellhausen spirit has been present in the study of Thomas Christianity in Kerala. The so called scholars simply deny the historicity of Thomas’ visit to India. But we do have many Biblical, traditional, historical and archeological evidences to support the Thomas visit. However the skeptical scholars give us a concession by stating that Christianity came to Kerala during the time of Portuguese, Dutch and British rules and not earlier.
But two things refute this false claim; the name “St. Thomas Christians” and the presence of Syriac language. If the Europeans brought Christianity to Kerala, naturally the name will be either Anglican Church or Dutch church etc. and the liturgical language will not be Syriac but English or Dutch or Latin.
Thus we can establish easily that the Kerala Christians go back even before the European missionaries. But the question is, since what time.
II. Thomas Came to Malabar
The Bible itself claims as the sure word of God tested and proved seven times like Silver by God Himself (Psalm 12:6). It contains history, doctrines, biographies, advices, prophecies, definitions etc. So it is a good starting point for Thomas visit to Kerala.
The New Testament Pattern
The New Testament clearly shows that the disciples took Jesus their Master as seriously and literally. (Remember the incident of the mother of Zebedee brothers coming to Jesus and requesting for the most important positions in the Kingdom of God). Whatever He commanded them, they did.
Initially Jesus prohibited them from proclaiming the gospel to the gentiles (Matt.10:5-6, 15:24). He commanded them to preach ONLY to the lost house of Israel. Even at the time of His ascension, He did not command them to go to the gentiles but only to the Jews and the lost house of Israel. In Acts 1:8 Jesus commands His disciples, “but you will receive power, the Holy Spirit coming upon you, and you will be witnesses of Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth”. Indeed they did go to the ends of the world! But still, to the disciples, this “end of the earth” DID NOT include gentiles!!!
This is contrary to the popular beliefs!
It is much afterwards (read Acts chapter 10 fully) when God through a vision to Peter opens the door to the gentiles!! Here, if you read carefully you will notice that God had to do miracles to CONVINCE the Jewish Christians who came along with Peter. Usually a person has to get baptized first and laid hands on and then only he receives the Holy Spirit. But in this case the order was REVERSED! They received the Holy Spirit first and then Peter asked them to be baptized!
For this action, that of opening the door to the gentiles, Peter is cross examined in Jerusalem by the Jewish Christians there (Acts 11:1-3)! When the Jewish Christians came to know about this incident they get ASTONISHED (Acts 10:45/ 11:18). Why? Because it was NEVER in their mind to preach the gospel to the gentiles!!
Even the original converts in Antioch were Jews only, NOT gentiles (Acts 11:19)! It is after Peter opened the door to the gentiles that gentiles were converted in Antioch also (Acts 11:20)!
Even then the FIRST PREFERNCE always went to the children of Israel. The pattern was always “to the Jews first and then to the gentiles” (See Acts13:46-47, Rom 1:16, and 2:9-10, 3:2). Even at a very later stage of his life, the apostle to the gentiles, Paul gives first preference to the Jews. Read the last chapter of Acts. When Paul reaches Rome as a comparatively free prisoner he calls the elders of the Jews together in Rome to proclaim the gospel FIRST (Acts 28:17).
Again there was another pattern of custom among the apostles. None worked among a church founded by another apostle unless it was an emergency (Rom.15:20/ 2 Cor.10:15-16). It was always the same apostle and his assistants who founded and sustained the same church. This was in line with one of the Ten Commandments; thou shall not covet anything that belongs to thy neighbor.
We have to remember that of all the apostles, ONLY Paul and Barnabas were exclusively selected as “apostles of the gentiles” (Gal.2:9, Rom.11:13). None of the original 12 apostles were ever called in the Bible as apostles of the gentiles. They were in fact sent exclusively to the lost house of Israel (James 1:1). This does not mean that they rejected any gentile who came to Christ. They happily accepted any gentile who came into the faith. But basically and more importantly they were to search and go to the lost house of Israel including the Jews who were scattered all over the earth.
Viewed in this way, we can know for sure that Apostle Thomas was NOT an apostle of the gentiles. I can emphatically state that Thomas came to India looking for Jews and other lost Israelites on the Malabar Coast including Mumbai and China. But like all the genuine apostles of Christ, he never rejected any gentile, but he came basically looking for Israelites.
In the New Testament we see that Antioch and Syria was already converted by others. So it is highly unlikely that Thomas ever worked in Antioch but as history shows he went east of Syria and that will take him straight to Indo-Parthian Empire and Far East!
Again if we can follow the Acts of the Apostles as a guideline to know how the “primitive” apostles’ style of functioning which never was contradictory, we can see that they had several missionary journeys to the same places. Read how many times Paul traveled on the same routes but each time farther and farther. On his fourth and a very long journey he reached Rome and was acquitted from death sentence (2 Tim.4:16-17). Tradition says he made a fifth and final journey to Rome and succumbed to death by beheading.
He himself says that he wanted to travel as far as Spain (Rom 15:24). Again tradition says that he reached even unto the British Isles! And remember that the journeys into the then Europe was a dangerous affair as just about 80 years before, Julius Caesar was fighting the barbarian Germanic tribes who knew nothing but destruction and looting.
If the apostles could travel and proclaim gospel to the barbarian countries in the far west, it was much easier for Thomas to travel Far East into a land which was civilized and friendly and which lay on the centuries old trade routes compared to the barbaric Europe.
The fact is Thomas made several missionary journeys in to the Far East to establish new churches among the Jews and later to sustain them just like all the other apostles did. His first journey took him to Indo-Parthian kingdom of Gondophorus which lies in the North West side of present India and his second journey took him to the Malabar and Coromandel area. His third and final journey took him to China.
Why Thomas Came to India.
Let us forget the Evolutionary idea and grasp an important truth about these ancient people. They were more intelligent and hard working people than we are and they knew exactly what they were doing! Much of their work and writings have been hidden by time and earth or destroyed by the incessant wars and other natural calamities which continued ever after. [I do not say that they never made mistakes or that we do not need to check for any error in their works. But my point is they made mistakes ONLY AS MUCH AS we the modern people do! Today also we need to sift through original and spurious works by the current authors. There is a big difference between propagandist history and genuine history. The propagandist historian (for example a Marxist) first makes the conclusion he wants and then sift through historical information and select only those facts which suits his conclusions whereas a genuine historian first goes through the history, collects all the facts and then makes his conclusion. Both types of historians existed throughout history. We need to be careful.]
If we study the pattern, as I said earlier, of the apostles in the New Testament and especially the Acts we see that they followed the same pattern; proclaim gospel first to the Jews in Jerusalem and Judea, then to the mixed people of Samaria (Hebrews and Assyrians were mixed in Samaria) and then to the ends of the earth (where to the Jews first and then to the gentiles).
As serious priority was given to the Jews first we can understand that Jesus and the apostles wanted to cover the Jews in the entire world wherever they could be found. Why?
Because God made the first covenant with Israel, He prophesied He will make a second and better covenant WITH THE SAME people (Jer.31:31, 33). Unlike the first covenant which the entire Israel accepted, the second covenant was “accepted” but only by a very few not by the entire Israel. It is when they rejected the second covenant that God called the gentiles to the covenant (Matt.22:2-10).
However it was necessary on God’s part to send the message of the second covenant to each Jewish community on the earth “for a witness” (courtesy Matthew 24:14) so that they cannot complain that they did not accept it because they did not hear it! That is why Jesus included the Israelites on the “end of the earth”.
Is God powerful enough to do this? The answer is yes. If it is God who scattered the Israelites and Jews all over the world He knows exactly where to find them. “For, behold, I will command, and I will shake the house of Israel AMONG ALL THE NATIONS, as one shakes with a sieve; yet NOT A GRAIN shall fall to the ground” (Amos 9:9)[emphasis added].
Consider this as a powerful statement from God and He knows exactly what He is doing!! In order not to leave any Jews and the lost Israelites in India and Malabar Coast without hearing the gospel, God sent Thomas to India. Now the point is, were there Hebrews in Kerala?
Hebrews in Kerala
Just like today’s Syriac Nasranis in Kerala, the Jews and the lost house of Israel were famed for their world migration known to history as the famous Jewish Diaspora. They have come to India as well. There are historical references to prove that Jews came to Kerala as early as 900 BC during King Solomon’s time. These Jews in Kerala are known as Bene Israel or the black Jews.
The Bible shows that during the time of King Solomon in Israel, he with the help of King Hiram of Tyre made sea trading a profitable business of international trading. Solomon and Hiram made a bilateral agreement of cooperation and trade (1 Kings 5:12). Solomon had a port at Eziongeber (today’s Aquaba) (1 Kings 9:26) and had hired a fleet of ships that went to and came from both Ophir and Tarshish. There are so many varied theories regarding the locations of Ophir and Tarshish. But the general idea by majority is that the eastern Tarshish is the present Japan/China and Ophir is Sophir, the Coptic name for India.
Wherever these locations are, what is interesting to us is that this fleet of ships was sailing along the Malabar Coast because the items brought to Solomon in these ships are almug trees, ivory, apes, peacocks etc.
While one may argue that apes and ivory can be obtained from Africa, the peacocks and almug wood cannot be, as these are available only in India and Kerala! Almug tree is the famous sandalwood which is found only on the Malabar Coast. Let us read what the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says about this: “it was evidently a fine, close grained wood, suitable for carving. Tradition says that this was the famous sandal wood, which was in ancient times put to similar uses in India and was all through the ages highly prized for its color, fragrance, durability and texture. It is the wood of a tree, Pterocar pussantalinus (N.D. Santalaceae), which grows to a height of 25 to 30 feet; it is a native of the mountains of Malabar” (ISBE).
It is clear that these sandal wood trees were not grown in Lebanon like the famous cedar trees because the Bible states that: “NO such almug trees have come, NOR have there been seen such to this day” (1Kings 10:12). If the sandal trees were grown in Lebanon like the cedar they could have brought BEFORE and AFTERWARDS to Israel. But it never happened as Israel could not bring sandal wood from Kerala because immediately after Solomon, the prosperous country succumbed to a great civil war which ultimately split the country in to two: Kingdom of Israel and Kingdom of Judea. The once prosperous sea trade was stopped and the country’s economy declined so that no more sandal wood could be brought from Malabar.
If you consider the apes and peacocks what is interesting is that the Hebrew words used for both these are not etymologically Hebrew but FOREIGN words borrowed from outside sources. The Hebrew word used for apes is “koph”. ISBE may be quoted here: “An INDIAN origin may be inferred from the fact that the Hebrew ḳōph, the Greek kḗbos (κῆβος) and the English “ape” are akin to the Sanskrit “kapi”, which is referred to the root kap, kamp, “to tremble”[emphasis added]. (Remember our Kapish cartoon stories).
The Hebrew word used for peacock is “tukkiyim” which is claimed to be borrowed from the ancient TAMIL word “tokei” used for peacock. Again ISBE states “as the ships of Solomon are known to have visited the coasts of India and Ceylon, and Tarshish was on the Malabar coast of India, where the native name of the peacock was tokei, from which tukkīyīm undoubtedly was derived…….. The historian Tennant says that the Hebrew names for “ivory” and “apes” were also the same as the Tamil”.
I asked one Tamil friend about this but he did not know about “tokei”. I will appreciate if somebody can find out this from any ancient Tamil expert.
If all the above items like apes, peacocks and sandal wood can be brought from India and Malabar then it would be uneconomical and unwise to sail to Africa for ivory ALONE because according to ‘Periplus of the Erythrean Sea’ ivory was available in India also. Considering that Solomon was the wisest man we can conclude that all the above items were brought from Malabar.
Thus it is proved that right from BC 900 Kerala had friendly trade connections from the Middle East. Now consider the genetic tendency of Hebrews for migration it would not be difficult to state that they settled along western coast of India from that time onwards. This is supported by the Bible which states that the Hebrews together with the Phynicians SAILED to Ophir and Tarshish. See 1King 9:27, 10:22, 2 Chron 8:18, 9:10). Indian history also says the same thing.
Second Immigration prior to Thomas
Centuries later, when Nebuchadnezzar (BC 604-561) attacked and conquered Judea, there was again another Jewish Diaspora which has reached the Indian coast including Malabar. This is stated in none other than the Bible itself. Read Esther 8:8-9. Here king Xerxes who ruled Persia between BC 485 and 465 tells to his Jewish minister Mordecai to send a letter TO ALL THE JEWS who live FROM INDIA to Ethiopia.
In fact even the Indian history shows several Hebrew migrations to Kerala in ancient times. Often they came by the trade ships. Muziris on the Malabar Coast was famous as the most trading port in India from the time of Romans. The reader must have become familiar by now about the Roman coins found in several places from South India, about Periplus of the Erythrian Sea documents etc from this NSC site. I do not want to go into details of these.
If God did not leave out any Jewish community in other parts of the world from hearing the gospel (Rom. 10:18) how He will leave out those in Kerala?
So, all of the above will show that an original apostle came to India and Malabar to proclaim the new gospel to the Jews. But the question is who and why Thomas?
Yes, historical references point to Thomas as the one who came to India and no other country or people – not even the east Syrian Christianity – claim Thomas as their apostle!
For the early historical references please see the “St. Thomas Tradition & the Indian sojourn in foreign sources’ in the NSC.
As many of the historians point out correctly, the most important aspect is the heavy SILENCE of the whole world regarding Thomas. No one claims Thomas to be their founder apostle except Parthia, India and China. Many of the other apostles’ works are claimed by other countries. If the Thomas visit was not a strong fact of history in the earliest century, there were chances for the East Syrian Patriarchate to claim the parent ship of the Malabar church. But on the contrary their records state that Thomas is the founder of the Malabar church.
Another group of early Christian migrants, Knanayas who came in the fourth century, could claim the glamour but they are also silent on this aspect. Their tradition also state that there were Thomas Christians in Kerala ALREADY when they arrived. If the Knanayas founded the Malabar church why there are two separate groups of Thekkumbhagars and Vadakkumbhagars from that time onwards? Since the Knanayas came later from the Middle East, Thomas is not their founding apostle.
Their famous claim of themselves as the Southists which did not mingle with the Northists clearly shows that there were St. Thomas Christians known as Northists when they arrived in Kerala.
Viewed in this way we can state that almost all the genuine historians are unanimous in agreeing that it was Thomas Dydimus who came to Malabar and started the Nasrani church here.
III. Early Christian Converts
Who were the early Christian converts in Kerala when Thomas came? We have seen from the above that the first converts were, of course, the Jews and other lost Israelites (black Jews) who were settled in Kerala in the previous centuries because it is for them that Thomas came to Malabar. Who were the other converts? We know from the Bible that God and Jesus Christ never discriminated people based on the color, class, caste, wealth, sex, social status etc. Thomas also would not do the same.
However certain practical elements would have made a big difference in conversion. If you go through the Bible one thing becomes clear. The Bible is mostly addressed to those who knew reading and writing. This is not discrimination from God’s part but a practical blockade made by man himself.
All the prophets were men of learning. It is a common erroneous thinking that God’s people were all illiterate and uneducated. True, God often calls simple and humble servants but that does not mean that they are ignorant or illiterate! For example Bible says “Moses was instructed in ALL the WISDOM of Egyptians and was powerful in WORDS and in works” (Acts 7:22) [emphasis added]. Many books of prophets especially that of Isaiah are considered among the best in the world of literature because of its language, literary style and grandeur. David’s psalms are still considered to be an inspiration for many poets. For example, consider many Malayalam devotional songs. Most of them are inspired by the Psalms.
All the apostles as well as the early Christians could read and write. All the epistles of the apostles were addressed to people who could read and write. Just like Moses, Paul was also a great man of learning. He studied in the most famous Jewish school of the first century; that of Gamaliel (Acts 5:34, 22:3). Paul knew his native language of Syriac as well as Greek (Acts 21:37) and Hebrew (Acts 21:40). Some scholars believe that he knew Latin as well as he was a Roman citizen. The earliest converts also knew reading and writing because the Bible says that when the gospel was proclaimed in Berea in Greece the converts checked the Bible on a DAILY basis to prove it (Acts 17:11).
Most of the paintings of the apostles show them as old and dirty. But the fact is just the opposite. Some of them were from well to do families. For example John and James, the sons of the Zebedee were comparatively from rich family as the Bible says that they had “hired servants” (Mark 1:20). They were influential also as later when Jesus was arrested and taken to the High Priest’s house, John and Peter could enter the court because John was known to that house (John 18:15). Whether rich or poor all the Jews are supposed to know reading and writing so that they can read the Bible daily and especially on Sabbaths.
Also remember, whenever Jesus was talking to the public He always said “it is WRITTEN” to make authentic claims. That makes clear that His listeners knew the writings. Once He asked “what is WRITTEN in the Law, what you READ?” (Luke 10:26), “Did you never READ?” (Matth.21:16). He told His opponents “you err because you do not KNOW the scriptures” (Matth.22:29). It had been the Jewish custom to teach literacy to its followers so that they could read and meditate the scriptures. The Nasranis also made the same custom by making “pallikkoodams” along with the “pally” or church and hence Kerala’s literacy.
This is also another important point to consider. Unless you use “force” in converting the local people as the Portuguese were reported as have done, then the ONLY method of conversion will be that of CONVINCING the local people about God, grace, sin, atonement, Messiah, death , resurrection, kingdom of God etc the basic tenets of Christianity. Naturally that will require at least a minimum standard of literacy. Neither Jesus nor any of His true followers have used force in proclaiming the gospel. They tried to CONVINCE the listeners who could grasp the truth.
So if we know WHO COULD READ AND WRITE when Thomas came to Kerala in the first century we will come to know who the first non-Jewish converts were! If we know who, in Kerala were AWARE of the Old Testament concepts so that when the New Testament gospel was preached by Thomas they could GRASP it, we will come to know who were the non-Jewish converts were.
Did ONLY the Brahmins know the art of reading or did other castes and classes know it? Did the Buddhists know the art of reading and writing? Were there Brahmins in Kerala at that time? It will take another full article to cover this topic.
However one point becomes clear. Whoever these local non-Jewish converts were, THEY KNEW the art of reading and writing and THEY WERE FAMILIAR with the Old Testament concepts! History says that early Christians WERE READING the Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew (Syraic?) as well as the Syrian Peshitta Bible!
So to conclude this part, we can say that Thomas came to Malabar looking for the lost children of Israel, that the initial and the majority of such converts were Jews and Bene-Israelites who were speaking Syriac language and that the local non-Jewish converts were a minority and they were in contact with the Israelites already as to become familiar with the Old Testament concepts.
If one studies the Acts of the Apostles, this will become clearer. In Acts we see that the Jews, spread across the world, acted as a SPRING BOARD for the spread of Christianity. The new religion spread very fast throughout the world THROUGH the Jewish Diaspora because “in EVERY CITY from ANCIENT generations Moses has those proclaiming him, having been read in the synagogues on every Sabbath” (Acts 15:21). Even the apostle to the gentile, Paul also, always went to Jewish areas and from there he proclaimed the gospel to the gentiles. Often it is from the Jewish synagogues that they preached the gospel to the gentiles (see Acts 13:42)!!
This was an important step in the Master Plan of God who before “the fullness of the time came” (Gal.4:4) for Christ to be born on Earth, made sure that there was enough Jewish Diaspora throughout the world.
However the Biblical and logical evidences point out that the majority of the initial converts in Kerala were Israelites and there were less non-Jewish converts because otherwise Syriac would not have become the common liturgical language. The local mix up of the Nasranies could have happened in the later centuries. I give below seven “proofs” for my statement.
IV. Seven “Proofs” for the Jewish Heritage
1. The first and the most important proof for Jewish heritage is the Suriyani language; if the Nasranis were basically local converts, why did they ACCEPT a foreign language which they DID NOT understand? If they were local converts why did not they use Tamil or Sanskrit as their liturgical language? No one, including St. Thomas, would have objected to this because it was not necessary that a convert had to accept the Lord’s language as well, to be saved. None of the apostles insisted on this.
Even BEFORE the conversion of Paul and even BEFORE the conversion of the gentiles, the Bible shows that there were DIFFERENT languages in the church of God. Acts 6:1 shows that there were Greek speaking Jews (Hellenists) and Aramaic speaking Jews (Hebrews) in the Church of God. They used their own respective languages for liturgy.
The Indian Jews still use Hebrew/Aramaic for their liturgy even though they speak fluent local languages. The Tamil Iyers at Palakkad use still Tamil at their home even though they speak fluent Malayalam. The Gujarati cloth merchants in Cochin and Trichur use Gujarati at home though they are fluent in Malayalam. Their relatives in Coimbatore use Gujarati at home though they speak fluent Tamil.
The same way the Nasranis use(d) Suriyani for their liturgy though they are fluent in local language. What does it show? If the Aramaic Jews are not local people, if the Tamil Iyers are not local, if the Gujarati merchants are not local, what about suriyani Nasranis?
In the initial centuries Suriyani was in the full use, later limited to home use and liturgy, still later used only in liturgy and lo……, in the 1960s it was completely wiped out and replaced with local language. 2000 years is a very long time!
This decline of Suriyani can be contrasted with a record of 5th century situation. I have read an article that quoted from “Early Spread of Christianity” by Alphone Mingana: “The fifth century opens with an Indian Christianity which was in such a state of development that she is able to send her priests…….. to assist the doctors of that Church (East Syrian Church) in their revision of the ancient Syriac translations of the Pauline Epistles”!
The argument that the subsequent Syrian Christian merchants brought Suriyani to the local Nasranis also does not hold water because unless the former use force, the local Nasranis will not accept it. Even when they use force also this exercise will not succeed because the locals have to LEARN it. If none of the Europeans could impose their languages like English, Dutch, Latin etc in the liturgy of their respective churches in Kerala in comparatively modern times (post 1500 A.D.), how can we expect the Syrian merchants could DO that miracle in the early centuries? No, the Nasranis used Suriyani because it WAS their mother tongue already!
This becomes clearer when you consider the Muslims all over the world using Arabic ONLY in their liturgy because it is compulsory for them. In the earlier times it was considered blasphemy even to translate Quran into vernacular languages. Christianity NEVER had such restrictions and we find the Bible translated into several languages even from the earliest centuries making the Bible as the one Book translated into maximum languages!
2. The second important proof is the title of “Nasrani”; WHY, of all the terminologies in the world did the Mar Thoma Christians use this title? This is important when you consider that the most popular name was “Christian” throughout the WHOLE world used for the converts. Even the Ante-Nicene fathers used always “Christian”. When the very few fathers used “Nazarenes” they meant the Jewish converts in Jerusalem. It is as if this was a Jewish “family secret” which only people in Jerusalem knew. How come this is used only in Kerala outside Jerusalem?!
The above point is very important when you consider the fact that today’s newly converted Jewish Christians call themselves NOT Nazarenes but MESSIANIC Christians!!
The sect of Nazarenes was never considered as a separate religion in the initial history of the Church (Acts 24:5/ 28:22). They were considered as a NEW SECT in Judaism just like the other old sects of Pharisees (Acts 5:17), Sadducees, Herodians (Mark 3:6) and Essenes.
In fact the Nazarenes called their religion as the “WAY”. See Acts 9:2/ 19:9, 23/ 22:4, 14/ 24:22. Is it a wonder that our Nasrani forefathers called this religion as “MARGAM” in local language?! To convert to Christianity was “Margam kootuka” for them.
So, where from we got this title? It was NOT bestowed upon us by any benevolent king. But we ORIGINATED with this title! So the use of “Nazarene”, a Jewish family secret instead of “Christian” shows a clear Jewish heritage for the Nasranis!
Thomas knew very well that if Jesus was called a Nasrani then the Jews who followed Him will be called the same name. “And coming, he (Jesus) lived in a city called Nazareth, so as to fulfill that spoken by the prophets; He SHALL BE CALLED A NAZARENE” (Matt.2:23). Check in the Bible how many times Jesus is called a Nazarene. Angels, devils, ordinary people, His own disciples including Peter and Paul called Him Nazarene. Even Jesus calls Himself Nazarene (Acts 22:8)!
3. Why the seven and half churches which Thomas founded were located near the Jewish residing pockets? This is because the Jews and the local people who lived in the Jewish areas were familiar with the OT concepts and it was looking for them that he came. If Thomas came to convert Indians he should have established more churches all over Kerala and always away from the Jewish areas.
4. Why copper plates were given only to Jewish mappilas, Muslim mappilas and the Nasrani mappilas? Because these people came from overseas and were fair in color. That is why the town they stayed was called “Maha-devar-pattanam”. Most importantly they brought “foreign money” to the kings in the form of international trade. If the Brahmins were converted they DID NOT NEED copper plates for privileges as they were “ALREADY” enjoying them. If the lower caste people were converted, NO kings would have given copper plates of privileges to them just because they changed their religion. The privileges were given based on caste, not religion. The lower castes will be still lower castes though they changed their religion. (Please do not consider me a pro-caste person. I am against caste discrimination. I am only discussing historical data).
So in short, if Thomas converted a lot of local people, they would not have received the copper plates of privileges. The Namboothiris will not require to get as they were already enjoying those privileges at the time of conversion and the lower castes would not get as they were from lower castes.
5. The Nasranis did not evangelize in Kerala any longer. This was a long perplexing question for the historians. But if you consider the Jewish heritage this question can be answered. They wished to keep their racial purity ideally though practically the later generations could not do that due to their sedentary life style and other historical facts. As the Portuguese has observed, the Nasranis were keeping concubines from local population especially from the Namboothiri and Nair communities. The Namboothiri’s custom allowed only the eldest son to marry from the same community. So there were excess of female population in this community who found solace in other communities like Nasranis.
If the Nasranis evangelized they had to formally intermarry with the local converts and the later generations of them wanted to avoid that. (This point needs to be further studied)
6. Stress on education. The Jews encouraged literacy and education because each Israelite was supposed to read and obey their “Torah” and meditate on them (Deut.6:8-9/ 11:18). Basically synagogues acted as schools for teaching literacy. Nasranis did the same thing because of their same heritage. They built “pallikkoodams” along with their “pallis”. That is why Nasranis, though a very minority, had almost a monopoly on the Kerala education field at the time of Independence.
7. Three natures common to Jews and Nasranis. The first one is the migratory nature. The Jews are famous for their Jewish Diaspora all over the world. Nasranis, whenever they get a chance, do the same. When they were expelled from the international trade by the Arabs, they migrated to the high ranges of Kerala, cleared the forest with much difficulty and cultivated the same products in which they were trading.
Later when the international arena was opened the Nasranis spread all over the world. Today they can be found almost in every part of the world! This is in spite of their small population. Jews also in spite of their small population have spread throughout the world.
The second is the mercantile nature. The Jews are famous as merchants. Nasranis are also famous as merchants.
The third is the money trade nature(“palisha” or interest). The Jews in earlier centuries started to engage in credit loans on interest because they were NOT allowed to own properties. So the only mode of income they could depend on was the money loaning and they used it to survive their hardships. Jews are famous as the money loaners (remember Shylock of Shakespeare’s play “Merchant of Venice”). Later these developed into famous Banks. So also the Nasranis. The majority of bankers, whether private or public, big or small in Kerala are Nasranis.
So to conclude in short, I would say that God sent Thomas to Kerala; that he came here looking for Jews and other Hebrews; that the majority of the seven and half Christian communities were local Hebrews; that there were some local LITERATE people in close contact with the Hebrews who were converted to Jewish Christianity; that they were the Nazarenes speaking Syriac, keeping their liturgy on Saturday Sabbath and avoiding unclean meats; that later when the spirit of evangelization subsided these Nazarenes wanted to keep their elitist nature among the local population; that later when more Jewish Christians came from Middle East and Persia they became one community; that the heavy local mix up happened in the later centuries due to various reasons.
A Request to Readers I request all the readers to send their comments so that we will have a brain storm exercise on this. Please do not hesitate to point out any mistake, however minor it may be, that might have crept in to this article so that all of us can convert this into a learning platform. Note:- Almost all the Bible quotes are from LITV (Literal Translation Version).
Author Joseph George can be reached on josephgpal at hotmail dot com.
Awesome article.The Human genome project also is finally indicatinf prescense of jewish genes in many Nasaranis.We will wait for more conclusive results.
Also i have one question.Forgive me if it is already written in bible,coz i am just an average Nasrani 🙂
Why did christ choose exactly 12 apostles?
I think it is “To revive the 12 Houses of Israel”.And if that is the case everything falls into place.. 🙂
Dear Arun John, Thank you for that wonderful information. You are absolutely right. Matthew 19:28 and Luke 22:30 support you.
Thanks to the author for these valuable information . There are few things people still really THINK that
-we are look just like nair or other hindu caste people
-They were plenty of brahimins converted and we are the generations from brahimins and aborginals
-Syrian liturgy came from syria along with immigrants and bishops.(even those not that good recoginizing us Jewish converts along with some kerala converts)
-There can be Jews converted and were minimal
On a spiritual note. I am unable to read the mind of Yahoweh. But I tried to find a reason why for a few past centuries did the Nasrani forget his true Hebrew heritage but was lost. I think it was because Yahoweh wanted the Nasrani to know h
ow other ‘Gentile Christians’ think and feel as Christians. We Nasranis can now connect between with the larger Christian world. This makes sense to me. Don’t know if it will to you!
Dear Joseph George.
You made the statement that the Nasrani kept Saturday as their Sabbath day. Please advise where you got that information. If correct, then this is also a very powerful point. Nobody other than the Hebrews and JEws keep Saturday as Sabbath.
You seem to consider the fact that “heavy local mixup” was some kind of curse on the community. Whether or not we are descended from Jews, we are rooted in our country and have an equal share in its composite heritage. Now it seems the old “Namboodiri pride” is to be replaced by “Jew pride”. Both are equally ill-based.
Do Jewish origins make us special spiritually? There are many verses which state there is to be no distinction between Gentile converts and Jewish converts.
Romans 10:12- For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
Acts 15:9- And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
Acts 10:28 And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean.”
Col. 3:11- Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
The findings you present are surely plausible (and I agree with you that we have Jewish origins), but your attempt to separate the community from its surroundings and also to place it on a pedestal spiritually is unacceptable.
Casteism and rasicm are both bad. But to be a Levite or Brahmin is it bad? There is a purpose why The Patriach Jacob blesses each of his twelve sons with a unique blessing. They each had a destiny to fulfil. The Hebrewism that we talk in this forum is that destiny that each Hebrew has to fulfill. Reading the Bible, it is very clear that Yahoweh has a specilal purpose for the Hebrews. He promises the patirach Abraham that through his seed (Hebrew) all men on earth will be blessed. You can argue that with the comming and going of the Messaih Yahoweh has fulfilled his promise. But if you look deeper, you will agree that the blessings are not yet fully complete. There are still millions to be blessed. It is the calling of the Hebrew Christians to be a channel for the blessings of Yahoweh As I have already pointed out, the rich spiritula heritage of the Nasrani will have to used for this purpose. Don’t one see it in everyday life that the faith of a Nasrani in his Gog is much stronger than that of a non-Nasrani. This is not something to be proud of at the expense of the non-Nasrani but something to be shouldered as a duty by a Nasrani. Here in the Americas, many people are simply ignorant of God or anything spiritual. Often one can not make a connection with these people about God. I think such are called ‘Existentialist’ (forgive my spelling) For all the 100s of faults of the Nasrani, I am yet to see a Nasrani who is spiritually bankrupt.
If the Nasrani does not fulfill his mission to serve other gentile christians, then he is useless, he is then salt which has lost it’s saltiness. The geneological eyes of the Nasrani has seen the Red Sea part for his forefathers to cross, his geneological eyes has seen Lazarus walk out alive from his tomb after 3 days of decay, his geneological eyes has seen the tearing of the red curtain in the Holy of the Holiest being torn when the new covenant was made. The gentile christians has a rich heritage too, but nothing compared to the awesome heritage given to the Hebrew Christian. I repeat that if the Hebrew fails in his calling, then punishment will be 7 times more than the others.
I thank you for your comment because it has given me a chance to clarify the following. It was never my intention to talk about any “curse”.
However, I am surprised at your observation. Never in my article have I said or seem to say that the “heavy local mix up” was a curse. On the contrary it is exactly what we are made of. The other day I spoke to Mr. Jacob Manakalathil, the Texas based DNA project Administrator over the phone who agreed that the Nasranis are a mix up of Hebrew and local bloods. I include myself in that mix up. That will mean that I have half of both sides. (I have not yet done the DNA test). So how can half of me consider the other half as inferior and hence a “curse”?! That will be ridiculous!! I cannot say my right eye is Jewish and hence spiritually superior and my left eye is local and hence a curse and spiritually inferior! May be I do not have any Jewish blood at all. May be I am from a Paraya community. Please think that I was only trying to look at the history as impartially as I could.
I AM rooted in our country just as you are. That is why in one of my earlier comments I stated that even if it is found that I have Jewish blood in me, I will not leave my Travancore area in India for Israel. So I agree 100% with you that “we are rooted in our country and have an equal share in its composite heritage”. No doubt about it.
Secondly as far as I know the term “Jew” was NEVER a term of pride. On the contrary throughout the last 2000 years it was considered as a derogatory term of ridicule and curse. People avoided Jews, they spat upon Jews. In the Third Reich, Hitler made sign boards “Dogs and Jews are not allowed” and hung them all over Europe. It is only after 1948, that they were noticed as people of some worth especially because of Jews like Albert Einsteine, Karl Marx, Sigmund Froid, Steven Spielberg and others. Even people forgot that Jesus, David, Solomon all were Jews. So I can understand about “Namboothiri pride” but I cannot understand about “Jew pride”.
As for “special spirituality” you are right. There is no distinction between Jewish converts and Gentile converts. But that is as far as Salvation or Eternal Life is concerned. LOGICALLY also this is correct. Can you say that Abraham will get Eternal life of 1000 years and Apostle Paul will get Eternal life of 990 years and a gentile convert will get only 980 years? NEVER. Because Eternal life is ETERNAL, never ending life. Every body gets the SAME eternal life, irrespective of Jew or non-Jew. Read the parable of workers described by Jesus in Matthew 20: 1-16.
But as George Mathew has pointed out correctly, Responsibility wise there are some differences. Some examples:-
Why God selected only Jewish leaders to lead His first century church? Even the apostles to the gentiles were Jews!
Why did Jesus claim that “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22)?
Why Romans 1:16 and 2:10 where salvation, glory, honor and peace are offered FIRST to the Jews and then to the Gentiles?
What about Romans 3:1-3 where Paul the Apostle of the Gentiles ask “What then is the superiority of the Jew? Or what the profit of circumcision? Much every way”!!!![LITV]
Read Romans chapter 11 in full. Paul reminds the gentiles that they are GRAFTED on to the Jewish tree and not the other way around.
Also read the parable of talents where God gives different talents to different people Matthew 25:14-30.
Remember when God selected Jewish race as special for Him, not even a son was born to Abraham! And Abraham was almost dead without a legal son. So the reason God chose a race when it did not exist was to show that His selection was NOT based on race, color, sex, creed etc etc. He selected Jews NOT because they were good looking or fair in color or superior in race or superior in intelligence! This was A DECISION taken by God, which He, as God, has every right to take!
How can I “attempt to separate the community from its surroundings and also to place it on a pedestal spiritually”? I can never do that to a community that has grown embedded in its surroundings for the last 2000 years. Believe me; even a 1000 Joseph Georges cannot do this!!
My only intention was to see the Main Root of Nasranis’ heritage from a historical perspective and that is all.
To George Mathew
I will come back to you on Sabbath reference.
First of all, thanks and congratulations to Joseph for a well-written article, without any apparent slant towards any one denomination, focusing on the Thomas-Malabar connection and the Nazranee Jewish Heritage. Such impartial approaches and analyses are essential to help bring together all Nazranees, irrespective of their present denominations, to focus on their common ancestral heritage.
Having been interested in the Hebrew roots of the Nazranees for several years now, I can agree with most aspects of the excellent systematic analysis presented through Joseph’s article. If I may add, it must have been the scattered Hebrew settlements which made Mar Thoma (Apostle Thomas) undertake the various missionary journeys to the east, including Malankara, to preach the Gospel of our Lord – as Apostle Paul did to the west. It is well known that the Malankara Nazaranee community has been strengthened in the past by several groups of migrants from the middle east, often fleeing from persecution in their own lands. Could these have included Essenes as well? Till archaeological investigations (hopefully, around Kodungalloor / Cranganore, maybe) provides a definite answer we have to look into other sources for helpful insights.
In addition to the St. Thomas Christians having the name “Nazaranees” or “Nazarenes”, the faith of the St. Thomas Christians have been referred to as “Maargam” or “The Way”. Conversion to Christianity is referred to in Malayalam as “Maargam Kooduka” which in English translates as “Join The Way”. Rev. Leslie Brown (and others too) have mentioned of the traditional song, called “Thomma Parvam” or Thoma’s Song which describes “the coming of the Way (Maargam) of the Son of God” to Malankara (or present day Kerala). Rev. Brown adds “…..Thomas later went south and preached the Way (Margam) for a year in Quilon…”. Perhaps the usage “Maargam” (meaning the Way) does indicate Essene influence?
The following are some additional points for thought, and I would appreciate knowing the views and comments, and also additional insights of/from, all knowledgeable sources.
Dr. Ray A. Pritz, a Jewish Studies scholar has also commented on the origin of the name “Nazarene” in his book “NAZARENE JEWISH CHRISTIANITY – From the End of the New Testament Period Until Its Disappearance in the Fourth Century” (The Magnes Press, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 1988). This book was perhaps based on a doctoral research thesis. According to Dr. Pritz, “We would normally have considered that the name comes, of course, from “Jesus the Nazarene” and that Jesus’ title comes from the town of Nazareth. It’s not quite so sure that that’s the case actually. It’s, first of all, very unusual for any group to be called by the name of the town of their founder. Secondly, there is an etymological problem in getting from the name Nazareth which in Hebrew is “Naztrat” to the name “Nazarene” which is in Hebrew “Notzri”…..Many scholars feel that the title “Nazarene” for Jesus actually goes back to the prophecy in Isaiah chapter 11, where Isaiah says that out of the root of Jesse would spring forth this branch, which in Hebrew is “netzer”. From that, it is quite possible to arrive at the adjective title “Notzri”…….”
Also, the title says “NAZARENE JEWISH CHRISTIANITY – From the End of the New Testament Period Until Its Disappearance in the Fourth Century”. Probably some of them did join up with the sister Nazranee community in Malankara?
And, one may notice the heavy use of incense (frankincense) during the Qurbana worship service of (most of) the St. Thomas Syrian Christian Churches. Whether this should be interpreted in accordance with Dr. Thiering’s view “to use frankincense meant to act under Jewish synagogue rules”, I am not too sure, but reference is made early during the worship to the incense usage/offering of Aharon. In the Mar Thoma order of worship that I am more familiar with, the Holy Qurbana worship has a beginning chant that says: “Aharon anachaa dhoopam pol prarthana sweekarikka…” which may be translated more or less as: “As Thou accepted Aharon’s incense offering/worship, please accept our prayers…” . The other Nazranee denominations too would have similar chants/references/prayers, I believe.
Any further insights from anyone?
Thanks to Joseph and George for taking the time out to make detailed comments 🙂
Dear Joseph George
Your article is excellent
We are trying to understand God using our human brain forgetting the fact that God gave us intelligence to understand this world. God is the creator and we are His creation. It is difficult for the creation to understand his master unless He wishes so. This is the problem that happened to the modern day so called biblical scholars. Remember the story about a man who decided to study the sun .He started observing the sun keenly for some time and finally became blind .Once he can not see anything he declared that there is no such thing called sun .
The Pentateuch were written by Moses. It was Holy spirit who gave him the knowledge and wisdom for this work .Otherwise who could be present when God created the world. The book of Jude (Jude 1:9) describes the argument between arch angel Michael and the devil over the soul of Moses (which should have happened many centuries before Jude and in the world of spirits) .The bible though written by many people over a long period of time, all the books are interrelated with a common central theme and we consider it as God’s words.
The gospel and salvation are primarily meant for the Israelites because they were the chosen people of God. This was because of his promise to Abraham for his belief in God(He had fulfilled whatever God asked him even to the extend of sacrificing his son)
About this Paul says ( Hebrews 11:17) “by faith Abraham, when he was tested ,offered up Issac, and he who has received the promises offered up his only begotten son .It’s reason
Paul again says “God was able to raise him up even from the dead “.
The authors conclusion that Thomas came to India in search of the lost tribes of Israel is very much sensible (matt: 10 :5-6)
Dear Joseph George,
‘Nazerani’ – How come this is used only in Kerala outside Jerusalem?!
Your above observation is incorrect. There were several hundred thousand Naseranis in Persia around 1840s. Please read the great book ‘The Nestorians – The Lost Tribes of Israel’ by Asahel Grant. It has a huge study of the Nazerani’s and even refer to the Nazeranis of Malabar as possible kinsmen to those in Persia. This is a must must reading. Amprayil Achayan may even help you download it from the web. I bought a book and read. I am rereading that again and again.. it is fascinating.
Nice essay, appreciate the presentation which places facts in a broad frame and still maintains the focus.
I wish to share few observations which need to be juxtaposed with the main article (Infact, re-posting from Orkut discussion forum):
(1) Education of Nasranis.
No doubt ‘pallikoodams’ associated with ‘pallis’ played a significant role in modern Kerala’s above-average
literacy rate; But that is not the lone factor. Lets not confuse the present day (post 18th century)
convent/missionary institutions with the ancient systems. Ancient Kerala was essentially a land of ‘basic-educated’ in comparison with most other deprived places in India. When the caste system crystallised, each caste layer had its own means of education. Remember the famous Ezhuthachan class which provided ‘vidya’ to the middle & lower classes. Nasranis too utilised this system for gaining basic education, which trained pupil on fundamental maths-science-language and few practical aspects like how to understand Panjangam etc, essentially designed to train the ‘ducklings’ to face the rough waters of life. Even now, if you ask the old (who are in 90’s) they have a good understanding of panjangam, a fair idea about vaasthu, and are able to predict abnormal weathers to some accuracy- all learnt from these basic-education centers.
Priestly education was going on as a parallel thread, training the few in liturgy & theology. Reading Hebrew Bible was an important milestone in the professioanl life of any priest then; Often many Syriac/Hebrew scholars popped. This doesn’t mean that Bible was popularly read & understood by laity, until late 19th century. The common man’s biblical knowledge relied greatly on the interpretations given by the priests. Note that it is verses from Psalms alongwith popular syrian hymns & Lord’s prayer which is mostly included in the common prayers structured for homes (Namaskara kramam) of Suriyani Christians, and not verses from New Testament (which is reserved for the priest in the midst of Holy Mass).
(2) Language of Nasranis.
In all probability, it could be from the blending of the (east, and later west) syriac with the ancient style (old)
malayalam that the hybrid vernacular called ‘Paathiri Malayalam’ was born! It is noteworthy that this vernacular was not the currency language of Nasranis, as they needed to Trade with the locals. On one front the Nasranis persisted with Syriac at the core of their liturgy, while fully adopted the (then) Malayalam as currency language.
The effect of syriac (& Arabic too) on malayalam have been studied by the profound scholar Prof.Elamkulam Kunjan Pilla (from linguistic & etimological point of view).
(3) Evolution Theory.
As we go by the evolution theory itself, even the subtlest change happens in several million years. In contrast to this period, a few thousand years donot really mean much, to effect any change in the intellectual faculty of Man.
Rather, from sociological point of view, civilizations happen in cycles and there have been many ups & downs, many a pinnacles & troughs, experienced by our species. With all humility we must admit the fact that there were certain ancestors in different parts of World at different points of time who were at an upper psychological & intellectual levels than the current society. Moreover, Wellhausen is not among the neutral or original historians. His skewed views do not carry much gravity, as he can’t disprove the historic trade links between cultures on both coasts of
the arabian gulf and acoss the african & indian peninsula, extending till China.
(4) Old & New Testaments- Interconnected.
“..the Pentateuch is a synthesis of at least four traditions..”
This statement sounds logical, as there were many cults (within the folds of 12 tribes) in Judaism. While Jews remained monolithic in faith (the common Thread in Bible), it was not so in cultural traits. This could justify the statement. Over a period of time, few of the 12 tribes started dominating others and in a distantly similar manner to the caste system of India (though it didn’t crystallize into a full fledged caste system), started considering themselves to be ‘more privilaged’ than the others. At the same time they took oath on the same covenant. This caused a conflict between belief & practice. Also the common people were severly enslavened by Romans but the priestly class eluded and remained as a relative ‘creamy layer’ who could ‘negotiate’ with rulers.
(Who did influence & force Pilate, even after he made a fair judgement of Jesus?)
Even then, the common people were well aware of the scriptures and drew (strength to survive, with a hope for future) from the WORD while in slavery. As a result, several purification movements surged. Close contact with Zorastrianism (which emphasised on soul first and body second- An eternal salvation) & Budhism (which professed an ethical n humble way of life and great missionary spirit) enhanced this trend. Observe the gradual variations in the ‘tone’ of prophets from Isiah onwards- an evolution in perception can be seen as against the ‘old’ prophets. By the time Jesus arrived few Monastic cults were already established within Judaism, which is originally a progenic religion.
The essence of the concept of ‘Messiah’ was to re-establish the pride of Man, the pride of Nation &
ultimately the pride of God, of a deprived comminity. Now in this light think of the life & teachings of John (the baptist) and Jesus himself. Consider the direct words spoken by the Lord as narrated in the New Testament- it assumes an amazing dimension and high voltage flows from it.
(5) Finally one question:
By tradition, it is generally perceived that St.Thomas had a mission to the Chinese in-land also (probably in
between his 2 arrivals in the Malabar coast?). Is there any evidence that the diaspora-Jews had settlements in China or elsewhere in the far east ?? Request readers to share the info you have.
It is heartening to find this discussion progressing unbiased with a neutral perception. Many a time, such discussions get reduced to ‘Brahmin vs Jews’ tug-of-war, which is not the case here.
As emphasised by many earlier, ethnicity is irrelevant by the Christian values, which (originally) do not sanctify cast or sect within its fold – not even the division of laity/clergy. Let us not get carried away by the Brahmin & Jews axioms. What really matters is how one equip self to accept & transmit the ‘Good News’.
Traditions (& hence DNA/genome project) make sense from sociological & historical points. We NEED (and have the responsibility) to findout who we are! But being a brahmin or levite doesn’t add to one’s virtue. History is a strong enough indicator to draw lessens from & also to safeguard against the past errors. What is really important is, we must recognise & discard the negative traits of all cultures involved.
It is historic fact that (in spiritual realm) the Brahmins made one of the most important contribution to the (known) mankind in terms of Upanishads & the Vedanta, on the banks of R.Sindhu-Ganga. At the same time, when the (cyclic) culture touched a trough, it caused the caste system to crystallise. Bottomline is that, a great culture ended up in a system where there is no LOVE, to tell one.
Another great culture sprang along the banks of R.Nile in which Jews too made immense contribution. The core problem with Jews lies in the fact that they had been absolute exclusivists who never co-existed well with other tribes/sects. Reference to narrations in the old testament itself, Jews were a community who were either oppressed class or oppressers all the time (see-saw). When they claim they are the ‘chosen’ ones, at the same time they remain the ‘tagged’ ones too! (Remember how easy was it for Hitler to execute the Holocaust). Considering the talent they have, this closed mindset always lead to destructive ends; Poor Palatinis bear the brunt now.
Every time they were made (by Yahweh) to repend. Naturally the God they realized was a ‘God of vengeance & benevolence’ (see-saw again). It is from this amazing contradiction that, from Historic point, Jesus sprang up as the flag bearer of the latter aspect, with the distilled theology of all-compassion.
The St.Thomas (or Nasrani) tradition provides one platform for us to unite for a common cause.
Dear George Mathew, Joseph George and others interested in Nazranee origins,
The usage ‘Nazranee’ was not confined to Palestine alone; it had been used to describe Christians of Hebrew origin, in places far away from Palestine as well, as the findings of Dr. Asahel Grant also show. The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, at their annual meeting in October 1834, presented a convincing and urgent plea for a suitable physician to engage in their mission to the Nestorian Christians in Persia. It was thought that a physician would be able to interact more closely with individuals of the community, have ready access to the social and domestic circles of all classes of people and thereby have the opportunity to gather first hand information about them. Dr. Grant, a physician, was chosen for this mission and he reached Persia in 1835; he returned to the USA in 1840 and submitted a report of his findings which was published as THE NESTORIANS OR, THE LOST TRIBES…(Harper & Brothers, New York, 1841).
Some among the Nestorians were known also as Nazoreans (or Nazranees). Dr. Grant mentions of the tradition among the Nazoreans of the Nestorians that they are the posterity of the Israelites of the ancient northern kingdom, carried away into captivity and dispersed among the nations by Assyrian kings; their ancestors accepted the Gospel directly from the apostles, including Thomas. This fact was attested by Jews living among or near them, though the Nazorean Nestorians exhibited antipathy to the Jews while at the same time they also exhibited several traits and followed traditions similar to those of the Jews. Doesn’t this scenario sound/look familiar to Malankara Nazranees as well?!
Dr. Grant’s observations and conclusions, including the possible Hebrew branches involved, are given in detail in his book. What follows is of special relevance to Malankara Nazranees. To show that the name Nazorean is not an incidental adoption but reflects a Hebrew heritage of the community known by the name, Dr. Grant also specifically mentions about the St. Thomas Christians of Travancore who also have the name Nazaranee or Nazoreans, and points out that they too have traditions, rites, customs and evidence of a Hebrew origin (stated by a reliable a non-Nazranee source, in 1841!). He has expressed the view that the St. Thomas Christians could have derived the name from Nestorian groups who were driven to seek refuge in India by the bloody persecutions of the 4th and 7th centuries, or they may be converts from some other branch of the Hebrew family. Further studies, including modern genetic analysis, will indicate which of these possibilities were involved in the case of the St. Thomas Christians of Travancore or, using modern terms, the St. Thomas Christians (Nazranees) of Malankara/Kerala.
If anyone is interested in reading Dr. Grant’s 1841 book, please feel free to drop a line.
Dear Amprayl Achayan,
There is one crucial differenc between the ‘Persian Nasrani-Jew’ scenario and the ‘Malabar Nasrani-Jew’ scenario. In Malabar the Jew and the Nasrani had good relationship.There never was enimty. I often wonder why? as it sounds ‘Utopian’. After much pondering I have come to the conclusion that it was because the ‘Jew’ for over 2000 years was never persecuted in Malabar (possibly in India too!) In Persia the Jew was persecuted. When respect is shown to an individual, then that individual tends to pass on respect to others. I wish to have some good criticism on this point
(By the way, if correct, I am going to patent it!)
Let me clafiry the above point I made. The Malabari Jew was not persecuted by the inhabitants or natives of Malabar/India. Ofcourse, they were persecuted by the Portugeese.
To all readers,
I am pasting a letter received by me from one of the foremost authorities of Jewish research in our part of the world. His name has been mentioned several times in the comments.
From: Naftali Arik >To: GEORGE MATHEW , [email protected], >[email protected]??u>CC: [email protected], [email protected]>Subject: Re: Nasranis of Malabar – India>Date: Tue, 25 Sep 2007 04:57:44 -0700 (PDT)>>
Dear Mr Matthew,
Thank you for contacting me.Indeed, the idea that the Nazaranee Christians of Kerala are Jewish descendents has a lot of support.
One scholar, Jacob Vellian, wrote an excellent article arount the ritual cimilarities, and anthropologist.
Shalva Weil also wrote on paralleks between the two communtiies. And there is a book by M. Swiderski, published in Madras, that discusses this claim as a kind of belief on the Kerala Christians, but it has rather skeptical tone to it.
The title is “Blood&Weddings” and might be available through Amazon.com And I have written a little bit on the topic in my book on the Cochin Jews.I think the Israelite or Jewish heritage of your community is generally accepted.
As for the DNA research, the leading scholar on this topic is Professor Tudor of SOAS in London.
Please let me know how I may be of service.
To: GEORGE MATHEW
Dear George Mathew, Regarding your comment on Yahweh’s mind, that has prompted me to think in that direction and I came to the conclusion that I might not be wrong if I presume that may be (may be) God wants to revive the Nasranis yet once more, for a very final time before the Second Advent. As you said, God may be reviving the Nasranis to take up their historical responsibility of taking His Gospel of the Kingdom to the whole Asia “for a witness” before the End comes (Matthew 24:14)!!……Forget…. I could be wrong!
Sabbath is a sensitive faith related issue. (Usually I try to avoid discussing faith related topics). Interpretation of historical data depends on the view point of the historian. For example pro-Sunday people do not see much Sabbath anywhere whereas pro-Sabbath people like Seventh Day Adventists see Sabbath everywhere. So, one has to be impartial in finding out the real facts.
It is true that though the Nasranis were keeping the Saturday Sabbath earlier, they were doing it not in the spiritual sense. This was more of a “traditional hang over custom” from the past Jewish Christian centuries. They kept it as only a feast day when they ate good and clean meat.
The first reference I got is from this site itself. See the “Preserved Original Rituals of the Early Jewish Christians…..” by Admin where it says “Some writers have mentioned that the ritual service used to be held on Saturdays in the tradition of the Jewish Sabbath……… The Portuguese described the Nasranis as Sabbath-keeping Judaizers”. Perhaps, the author of this article can help us in finding his references.
The second reference is from 2 Catholic historians of 4th and 5th centuries. Socrates and Sozomen who said that the whole Christians in the entire world keep the Sabbath holy except those in Rome and Alexandria. Salminius Sozomen in his ‘Ecclesiastical History’ Book VII, Chapter 19, says, “The people of Constantinople, and almost everywhere, assemble together on the Sabbath, as well as on the first day of the week, which custom is never observed at Rome or at Alexandria”.
Socrates Scholasticus in his ‘Church History’, Book V, Chapter 22, says, “For although almost all churches throughout the world celebrate the sacred mysteries on the Sabbath of every week, yet the Christians of Alexandria and at Rome on account of some ancient tradition, have ceased to do this”.
Later on I read somewhere that the Jewish Christians were keeping BOTH the days where as the whole Christendom kept only Sunday as holy. The Christians who kept Sabbath were termed as Judaizers and Judaizing was known as Sabbath keeping. In the Council of Laodicea circa 336 AD, Canon XXIX says, “Christians shall not Judaize by resting on the Sabbath…….”.
[The rest of my references are quotations taken from articles. Since the place I reside now does not have Christian books I could not read them directly from the original sources].
However the Nasranis, as a Jewish heritage, were keeping the Saturday as a feast day (Levi. 23:2-3) for centuries until Portuguese came here. They might not have kept it as a spiritual observance but as a residue of their Jewish heritage. Hence as a practice they kept it as a feast wherein they ate best food especially meat. Thomas Yeates, who traveled largely in the Orient, writing of the St. Thomas Christians and other Christians of the East, said in ‘East Indian Church History’ that Saturday “amongst them is a festival day agreeable to the ancient practice of the Church.” Samuel Purchas, in enumerating the doctrines of the Syrian Church in ‘Pilgrimes’, said “that they celebrate Divine Service as solemnly on the Sabbath, as on the Lord’s Day; that they keep that day festival, eating therein flesh, and fast no Saturday in the year….”.
When St. Francis Xavier came to Malabar Coast he wrote a letter to D. Joao III, King of Portugal as follows: “The second necessity for Christians is that your majesty establish the Holy inquisition, because there are many who live according to the Jewish Law (Sabbath and clean meat) and according to the Mahomedan sect (circumcision and abstinence from Pork) without fear of God or shame of the world.”
In the Synod of Diamper, the Saturday feast was turned into a fast day by a decree. Decree 15 of Action VIII, as recorded by Geddes, reads, “The synod doth command all the members thereof upon pain of mortal sin, not to eat flesh upon Saturdays.”
Another important decree in the Synod was regarding the definition of days. Decree 16 of the same Action, demands that all feast and fast days shall commence and cease at midnight, because the practice of beginning and ending the day at sundown is Jewish. The Jews and the Jewish Christians considered the day as starting from the sunset and finishing at next sunset in accordance with the Biblical commandment (Lev. 23:32). Also see Genesis 1:5 which defines a day as “And there was evening, and there was morning the first day”.
Now read in history who was keeping the day from sunset to sunset! It was the Semitic people. So this is another proof for the Nasrani’s Jewish heritage because according to the Synod of Diamper decree, the Nasranis were keeping the Jewish practice of starting the day at sunset for Sabbath feast!!
Not only Syrian Christians kept the Sabbath in India. Rev. Claudius Buchanan says that when he visited India in 1805 he found even the Armenian Christians keeping the Sabbath! “The Armenians in Hindostan…….have preserved the Bible in its purity; and their doctrines are, as far as the author knows, the doctrines of the Bible. Besides, they maintain the solemn observance of Christian worship, throughout our empire, on the seventh day…..” (Christian Researches, page 163).
There are other references also but I am still studying them.
To: AMPRAYIL & GEORGE MATHEW
What a humbling learning experience I got from this discussion regarding the name “Nazarene”. I thank you both very much for providing this information.
In fact when I wrote “How come this is used only in Kerala outside Jerusalem?” I “meant” the Middle East as a whole instead of Jerusalem. But still, it is a mistake on my part.
When I was writing the article I had a small discussion with a Lebanese Christian friend who informed me that in the Middle East, Christians are “generally” called Nazranis from the earlier times. It is a generic term and not a specific term. To my further query the Lebanese friend confirmed that this term has nothing to do with any ethnicity. They call any Christian, whether Arab or Canaanite or others, by this term. It may be because of this, that my sub-conscious mind put it as Jerusalem instead of Middle East.
I always used to wonder where could the original Nazarenes who escaped from Jerusalem to Pella in AD 70 have gone.
Thanks to Joseph George, for this very neat well written article. The entire events have been looked very beautifully through a Biblical analytical lens with a clear clarity approach.
This article definitely questions the partiality of authors who question the Thomasine traditions and gives clear insights in to the scenario of early converts in Kerala and clearly points out the rich Judeo traditions. We can always see a partiality in those authors who question the St Thomas tradition. They don’t seem to question many things of the other Kerala religions which are tradition based to some extent. Many of them simply question the St. Thomas tradition and doesn’t even look at the associated events in Kerala Christianity through the same questioning mind. Those who question neither makes an effort to give any justification to the wealth of information existing on our rich heritage.
Regarding Sabbath, many writers have suggested about the importance Saturdays had in the history of Nasranis. Most of them seems to be Pro- Sabath people. The observations by Joseph makes sense on faith related issues, as it can only help in creating controversies when more than 90 % of the priests of all St Thomas Christians are commercialized and/ or westernized in their outlook irrespective of denominations. They generally don’t seem to miss any opportunity for controversy creations. There is good associated with bad and the good side is that, the lay seems to show keen interest in traditions.
Controversies are part of St Thomas Christianity, when those who are supposed to take care of this looks at west to import all the ill rooted commercial traits of Christianity to our life’s. It is really a sad scene, since we are one of the spiritually rich traditions with strong true traits of Judeo Christian traditions, which are worth to be exported to global Christian scenario. The accumulation of western pieties are increasing in St Thomas Christianity for the last two decades. The good side is, there is also a small movement of spreading of this 2000 years old strong heritage to other parts of the world. That’s’ very positive and hopefully coming decades we might see the traits of Thomasine Christianity playing a major global role on global Christian scenario. May be a reverse trend can be accelerated, if our preachers get some knowledge on appreciating own beauty.
In “Preserved Original Rituals of the Early Jewish Christians…..” the observations are based on number of sources both articles and books. I will try to add bibliography to the articles when I get time to work on it. ( I am lazy and sorry its taking time ). On Sabath particularly the sources are, Thomas Yeates ( Indian Church History, 1818), Dr. Alponse Mingana ( Early Spread of Christianity) , Claudius Buchanan ( Pamphlets, off quoted). One of the imminent source in most of the off quoted articles ( last three decades) seems to be Dr. Alponse Mingana who was a Chaldean priest ( the famous historian who was behind the Mingana Collection of ancient Middle Eastern manuscripts).
It is a difficult proposition to ridicule this completely and at the same time proving for the satisfaction of Pro- Sabath group is also difficult. It clearly becomes a strong supporting evidence for the rich Jewish heritage considering the documentary evidances for feasts and fastings.
Though western pieties has some what replaced our feasts and fasting scene, there are evidences on how disturbed the Carmelites and Jesuits, just decades back on Thomasine observation of feasts and fasting.
George Mathew, you are right in saying that the Nazranees & Jews of Malabar generally had good relations over the centuries.
Prof. Nathan Katz, Professor of Religious Studies and an internationally recognised authority on South Asian Religions, spent a year in Kerala on a Fullbright Senior Research Fellowship with Ellen S. Goldberg, journalist, editor and photographer to investigate and collect first hand information on the Cochin Jews. This inevitably involved examining the community’s relationship with their neighbouring communities – the Syrian Christians or Nazaranee Mappillas, the Muslims or Jonaka Mappillas, and the Hindus. The results of their studies, have been published in the book THE LAST JEWS OF COCHIN – JEWISH IDENTITY IN HINDU INDIA by Prof Nathan Katz and Ellen S. Goldberg, (University of South Carolina Press, 1993). In this book, a brief survey of the legendary accounts of the sojourns of the three Abrahmic religious communities in south-western India is also included. According to the authors, there were several waves of Jewish migration to India, with reported origins from the Israel of King Solomon, from the Assyrian conquest of the 8th century BCE, from the Babylonian exile, from the destruction of the Second Temple, from Hadrian’s oppressions of 136 CE, from fifth century Persia, from Yemen, Spain and Turkey.
They also mention, “Kerala’s Jews and Christians not only lived amicably ….but the two developed a “symmetrical” relationship, quite unique in world history…The Christians also share with the Jews tradition of having received a royal charter_.engraved on copper plates, from the idealised Hindu emperor, Cheraman Perumal_”. Reference is also made to the ancient copper plates kept in Holy Ark of the Cochin Synagogue, and the Jewish Malayalam folk song regarding them in which the leader of the Jews, Joseph Rabban, is referred to as “the Syrian”.
Prof. Katz also mentions of an eminent leader of the Cochin Jewish community, Ezekiel Rahabi II having undertaken missions on behalf of local Christians: “In 1747, the impoverished Syrian Community of Cochin wanted to send for their new bishop from Basra in Iraq, but lacked the funds to do so. They appealed to Ezekiel II who magnanimously despatched a ship to fetch the bishop, and advanced the church some 8,000 rupees_”.
I have had the occasion to meet Prof Katz while at the Pennsylvania State University in the USA in 1995 after his talk on “Cochin Jews” to a Jewish student group in the campus. He reiterated the opinion that many among the present day Malayalee Nazaranee (Nazarene) Syrian Christians are close kin to the Jews – not only the “Southists” among them who are eager to make the claim, but many among the “Northists” as well (who may not have been too eager about emphasizing it).
I know there are several “Northist” families, now settled in various places in modern day Kerala State, India and overseas, who have written family histories mentioning ancestral links to ancient Cranganore Nazaranees, but without specifically highlighting any Hebrew links. The apparent indifference may be the result of a combination of various social, political and religious considerations, over the centuries.
In the past, those who have had a Brahminic heritage as well to speak of may have preferred to highlight that part of their possible Hebrew-Brahminic roots, as this perhaps was more prestigious in the Indian society context; this might have led to their eventually forgetting about their Hebrew roots altogether. Or, if the latest genetic test results are a general indication, it could be that the term “Brahmin (Hindu priestly community) – like” may have been used to describe a Levitic (Hebrew priestly community) community; in the predominantly Hindu society the term “Brahmin-like” must have been easier to be remembered and this eventually might have become just “Brahmin”! Or, it could be the result of the sincere acceptance and practise by the early St. Thomas Nazaranee Christians of the principle that “There is neither Jew nor Greek…..for ye are all one in Christ Jesus”. Or, it may even be a wish to dissociate themselves from members of a community which (unfortunately) came to be branded as “Christ killers”. Whatever the reason(s) may have been, the Hebrew link is, nevertheless, evident in several past and present common customs and traditions similar to or derived from ancient Hebrew traditions, being followed by the “Northists” among the St. Thomas Nazaranee Syrian Christians too though now divided into several denominations.
It must be noted, tragic as it is, that the community was forced to give up many of these Hebrew-linked customs & traditions by the Roman Catholics at the Synod of Udayamperoor (Diamper), near Cochin, in 1599; a decree was also issued to surrender all records and books in Syriac, and a literary holocaust was carried out, consigning them to the flames – an act comparable to the vandalism of Omar, who by similar wanton destruction, ordered the noble library of Alexandria to be consumed by the flames, as mentioned by S.G. Pothen in his book “Syrian Christians of Kerala”.
Thus in later years, after the Latinization efforts of Menzies and his ilk, there has been observed a tendency by many among the Nazranees to ignore, forget and even deny their Hebrew roots.
Would the Nazranees of the present generation onwards, show the courage to reclaim their original ancestral heritage? Or has Menzies and his followers succeeded in brainwashing the Nazranees permanently to deny their Hebrew roots?!
Dear Amprayil Achayan,
Thanks for writing this. It has been very useful knowledge.
Today, I was talking to some freinds about our Heritage matter. Their opinion seems to be ‘Why bother about our Heritage..when there are other things to attend to..?
I don’t seem to have a good answer for this attitude. I think we have written and studied a lot about our heritage and yet have not focused upon why our heritage is important. I feel it in my bones why it is important but unable to express it.
I think it needs all the skills of a sociologist to answer this question as to why our heritage is important. To me it is a very relavant question and it should be answered. Many have grown up far from shadows of their forefathers in Kerala. How do we DE-BRAINWASH our brothers? We have to focus on why our heritage is important, why an identity is important, why we should learn Syriac/Hebrew while respecting Malayalam and English. Your’s and others sincere advise is solicited.
Here is something interesting about ‘Syriac’ in the year 2007. The richest man in the world is a ‘Maronite’ his name is ‘Carlos Slim’. The liturgical language of the Maronites is still ‘Syriac’ and until the advent of Islam, the Maronites spoke ‘Aramaic’.
You can easily read more about Carlos from the web. I know he is a Syrian Christian but unsure if Maronites are ‘Nazerenes’.
On August 8, 2007,
Quote: ‘Fortune magazine reported that Carlos Slim had overtaken Bill Gates as the world’s richest man. Carlos Slim’s estimated fortune soared to US$68 billion, based on the value of his public holdings at the end of July. Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ net worth was estimated to be at least US$58 billion.’ Unquote.
Please note that I am not connecting wealth with Christianity. But only telling you that Syriac is still alive in unlikely places.
Quote: “and no other country or people – not even the east Syrian Christianity – claim Thomas as their apostle!”
Huh? Am I reading this wrong? The East Syrians most definitely DO claim Thomas as their apostle, with St. Thomas being their first Catholicos. Similarly, the Madenhoyo of the Syriac Orthodox Church (i.e., those Jacobites who lived in the Persian Empire and were under their own Catholicos) view St. Thomas as the progenitor of their line of Catholicoi. St. Thomas was a prolific apostle (if the stories are true) in West Asia.
In fact, an alternative take on the whole story could be that St. Thomas started the various churches of the east in the West Asia, and never even came to Kerala. Then, when the West Asian merchants and missionaries came over in the 4th and 9th centuries, they brought their Syriac Christianity and their reverence for St. Thomas. They interbred with the natives (and/or the Jews), making the use of Syriac not-so-foreign to the new community of “half-breeds” (whose descendants–us!–still carry the genetic J2 markers).
Not that I believe in either theory, but both explain the use of Syriac in Kerala. The point on education doesn’t prove anything — the advances in education among Christians in Kerala might have been due to foreign influence (e.g., the foreign missionaries liked to start up schools … for various reasons), or just common sense/forward thinking.
Is this city, Mahadevapattanam still around? Has anyone gone there and dug it up? Where does this information come from and how reliable is it?
But the other points are interesting — although the article (and many of the comments here) has too much of a mix of religion to be scholarly! I can equivalently say that if it was divinely ordained that we maintain our supposed Jewish culture, then we wouldn’t have suffered the cataclysmic blow dealt by the Portuguese, Dutch and the British to our religion. I mean, when all is said and done, and we remove the new theories and speculation: how much real, hard evidence is there for this, and more importantly, how much of our ancient heritage is maintained? Is it just Pesaha, patriarchal naming, and the Persian Crosses? At the end of the day, the Nasrani’s are all either Syro-Malabar Catholics (foreign), Syriac Orthodox (foreign), or Mar Thomas (double foreign). Apart from the Church of the East — which itself doesn’t maintain a direct link to the past since they are just schismatics from the Syro-Malabar (a case of two schisms making a right!) Catholics — the entire community is following foreign rites, with no connection to Judaism. I think this is why it’s hard for me to swallow these new claims of Jewish ancestry. Is there a pocket of Nasranis that still circumcise, read the Torah, follow the Kosher laws, and speak Judeo-Malayalam?
Dear Johan Mathew,
Wow! you are interesting.
If circumcision is done to Christians, then the whole matter of Yeshua’s death and ressurection is meaningless. Even the Nasrani is under the new law. No doubt you know this very well. It is absurd for a Christian to be circumscised.
Regarding the mx of religon and scholarly work, please note that I am mostly the one who brings in religion into this. Others are more scholarly. As mentioned earlier, we search for hard evidences. But sometimes they may not be available. It is then our gut feeling, intiution etc. plays a role. This transcends science.
When our hero Thomas saw Yeshua, he no longer wanted to put his finger into the spear hole on his side. Thomas was satisfied. He had earlier insisted that he will believe only if he puts his finger into the wound.
I think we can believe in our Hebrew heritage even without hard evidences. Not blind belief but just like how the dozens/hundreds of prophesies of Yeshua in the OT took place during those 33 years, so can we connect several leads, clues, traditions, DNAs, opiniions of proffessional reasearchers, logic etc. and come (not easily though) to a conclusion that the Nasrani is truly Hebrew. I think if there is a jury, the jury will support this even without hard evidence.
Regarding the graves of the Nasranis, I too often share this view as to why there are no 1st or 2nd century Nasrani tombs seen.. One possible reason may be that unlike Rome and Palestine, Malabar has been more thickly populated and hence the chances of tombs preservations would be much less. It is however possible that the future will bring out archeological evidences.
Regarding your remark that some’s motivation for establishing the Nasrani Hebrew connection is to show a long bloodline of Christian faith. This may be true but is not morally wrong if the establishment of such a bloodline is for the Glory of God and not to serve personal glory. In fact, I have not even told my family back home in India about my affairs with the Hebrew. Because, backhome they all think they are of Brahamin heritage. LIke almost all Nasrani families they will not readily buy the Hebrew story. And I know very well why they will not.
I looked to our church for support in my research but had nothing from them. I have recently come to a conclusion that when we tell others about our Hebrew heritage, many will be even hostile as I experienced. But some will later come back to me and show in many ways that they do agree. For the vast majority, the possibility of a Hebrew heritage is heard for the first time.
Dear John Mathew,
Regarding your opinion that there is yet to be a scholarly research done on this Hebrew matter. Well! I am not sure of this. I think Prof. T.V. Phllip has done so and he points to a Hebrew heritage (suggest you confirm this, the Prof. was teaching Theology at Banglore and I think he is a Marthomite. Further Prof. Nathan Katz has also confirmed about our Hebrew heriatge. Repeating again, Prof. Katz is himself a Jew and is an authority on South Asias Jews.
I have put a copy of his letter to me confirming the Hebrew heritage either in this article or the last one.
Trust you have also read the pervious article. That also had lots of comments.
Further, when we comment on these pages, we do not mean to be scholarly. Often we brain storm as someone here pointed out.
Like how Darth Vader told his son Luke Skywalker ‘…..search your heart and you will know I am your father…’.
Similarly you search your heart and you will find the Hebrew is our Nasrani father. The mosaic pieces will fall into place and form a Hebrew image.
Those who have eyes to see will see….
This is in response to JOHN MATHEW’s comment on 22.01.08
Dear John Mathew,
Below are some of my observations of your observations. Sorry if you find errors in my points. But please point out them.
A). You have quoted from my article regarding the exclusivity of the apostleship of Thomas. Well, you may refer to another quote where I have mentioned “No one claims Thomas to be their founder apostle except Parthia, India and China”.
Historians differ on the extent of the apostleship of different disciples. However the general consensus is that Thomas directly was involved in establishing the churches in Parthia, India and China. As for the other eastern provinces different names are mentioned. For example, the name of Bartholomew who was martyred in Armenia is connected with much of the area between Armenia and Parthia. So also are the names of Mar Mari and Mar Addai(Thaddeus). Thomas was only indirectly involved in the formation of these East Syrian churches.
I quote from ‘Mar Thoma: The Apostolic Foundation of the Assyrian Church and the Christians of St. Thomas in India’ by Stephen Andrew Missick’, “Several of the most ancient Syriac writings such as The Doctrine of Addai, The Chronicle of Arbela and The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles record that Saint Thomas SENT Thaddeus and Mari to preach to Abgar Ukkama (the Black), King of the Assyrians at Osrhoene”.
Another quote, “According to ancient records Thaddeus and Mari went to preach to the Assyrians AT THE BIDDING of Thomas. Thomas later went and ministered to the Assyrians living in PARTHIA and in Assyrian principalities and villages along its borders. The liturgy used by the Assyrians and Chaldeans is believed to have been composed by the Apostles Thaddeus and Mari”.
Again another quote,” The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles gives the following account of the foundation of the Assyrian Church: India, and all the countries belonging to it and round about it, even to the farthest sea, received the apostolic ordination… from Judas Thomas, who was the guide and ruler in the church he had built there, in which he also ministered… Edessa, and all the countries round about it… and all the regions on the borders of Mesopotamia – from Addeus [meaning Addai] the Apostle, one of the 72 apostles, who himself made disciples there, and built a church there, and was priest and ministered there in his office of Guide he held there…The whole of Persia, of the Assyrians… as far as the borders of the Indians… received the apostles ordination from Aggeus, the disciple of Addeus the apostle.
This is exactly what I found in Prof. Menachery’s papers also. Emphasizing that it was the apostle Thomas who established the Malabar church, the Professor makes a powerful statement. To make it clearer I take a long quote (the Professor quotes also from Podipara), “There is not the least trace of any tradition either among the Syrians or among the Indians concerning the original introduction of Christianity into South India by the East Syrians. The East Syrian bishops and patriarchs who ruled the Indian Church from the earliest times down to the sixteenth century never claimed that their forefathers were the apostles of South India… They even explicitly recognized St. Thomas the Apostle as the founder of the South Indian Church” Vatican codex 22 written in Malabar in 1301 designates the then East Syrian Prelate of the Thomas Christians as “Metropolitan bishop of the See of St.Thomas .” The Patriarch of this prelate was only the head of a Church founded by a disciple of a disciple of St. Thomas (as the east syrians themselves believed).Would a prelate tolerate a title that was more honorable than that of his patriarch, if that title did not mean what it said?”
It is after reading the above and other such historical records that I made my statement in the article.
I may be wrong but this is the first time I am reading that St. Thomas is the first Catholicos. (Earlier in Bombay a very passionate Latin Catholic Goan told me that Jesus Christ and Mother Mary were the first ever Roman Catholics on the earth)!
B). Considering the above point the second theory you have mentioned could be argued against because the West Asian merchants under the leadership of Thomas Cana came from South East Turkey as far as my information goes. They came forward from Palestine. Hence Thomas could not have been their founding Apostle. I doubt whether they could be called St. Thomas Christians. They could be called Syrian Christians. So the name of Mar Thoma Nasranis goes back even before the time of these west Asian merchant Nasranis.
C).You said, “Not that I believe in either theory, but both explain the use of Syriac in Kerala”. I am glad that the existence of Syriac (one of the seven proofs) was a strong and valid proof for the Jewish heritage.
D). Your point on education is valid as an important information. But when you critically approach this information, you will find strange gaps in it so that it may not become intelligent information. I DO agree that there was a great positive influence of the western missionary spirit on Kerala’s education.
However consider this: Most of the western colonial powers who ruled in India had head quarters outside Kerala. For example the Portuguese, though they landed in Kerala, made Goa their HQ in India. Still, you cannot find Goa or Karnataka equal with Kerala in literacy or education on a comparative scale from the time of Independence in 1947. Same way, the French had many centers on the east coast of India like Pondicherry, Orissa etc. But still you cannot compare the literacy or education of Orissa or Tamil Nadu with that of Kerala from the time of Independence in 1947. The British landed in Surat far away from Kerala and almost for 350+ years they ruled north India, first from Calcutta and then from Delhi. Still you cannot compare the literacy and education standards of North Indian states like Bihar, UP, Gujarat etc with Kerala from the time of Independence in 1947. Same goes with the Dutch power.
So the issue is, if Kerala’s literacy and education is a direct product of “foreign influence or just common sense/ forward thinking” as you have said, why don’t we find the same in states where they had their head quarters? Why do we find this “influence” in large scale only in Kerala where they did not have even a single HQ other than a few warehouses?
DEFINITELY, there was a great influence of these foreign forces on the education field of Kerala. But that became possible only because we, the Nasranis, were ALREADY on the platform of imparting literacy and education to our community in line with our Jewish heritage. We immediately utilized this new found foreign knowledge of literacy and education because we were ALREADY moving in that direction though it might have been “primitive” compared to the western forces.
Unless someone can convince me otherwise with hard facts I will keep the same view; that this is a Jewish heritage of Nasranis!
E). Regarding Mahadevarpattanam, please refer to Prof. Menachery’s papers.
F). Regarding the mix of religion and scholarship. Do you mean to say that to be religious is to be anti-scholarly? Or to be scholarly is to be anti-religious? No. One can be religious at the same time be scholarly and vice versa. We need to remember that some of the greatest geniuses like Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, Albert Einstein et al in the filed of Science were religious people. In fact one of the main hobbies of Isaac Newton was to study the prophecies of the Bible. He has scribbled about one full notebook on his interpretations of the Biblical prophecy connecting to the then world scenario.
It is an irony that the moment one thinks about God, science disappears! IF the God we Nasranis believe is a real, true and living God then certainly that God cannot be anti-scientific!! In fact it is God Himself who challenges everybody to be REASONABLE in their thinking!!! “Come now and let us REASON together, saith the LORD” (Isa.1:18).
G). Next point is your observation on “cataclysmic blow”. You wrote, “I can equivalently say that if it was divinely ordained that we maintain our supposed Jewish culture, then we wouldn’t have suffered the cataclysmic blow…….”. You read the OT and you will find out that God Himself has several times dealt cataclysmic blows on the Israelites through other mighty empires like Assyria, Babylon etc when Israel’s sins abounded and it did not listen to His repeated warnings through many prophets.
He has dealt such heavy blow to the northern kingdom that they lost their identity and disappeared from the world known in history as “the lost ten tribes”. He has dealt heavy blow to the southern kingdom that Babylon carried them as captives. The famous song of old BonneyM “By the rivers of Babylon……” is a borrowing from Psalms which is a cry from the captive Jews in Babylon.
He has again dealt heavy blow to the Jews that they lost their home country and roamed around all over the world as fugitives for the last 2000 years.
So what will prevent God from dealing a blow to the Nasranis if they will not listen to Him?
Secondly it is not the Jewish “culture” that God wants us to keep intact.
H). You wrote, “how much real hard evidence is there for this…..”. The first thing that came to my mind is that it seems you are expecting a history book with chapters in it describing the entire history in a single sequence to be unearthed. This may never happen. Because of Kerala’s dense population we may find it very difficult to excavate in Kerala on a level with that of Palestine. Secondly the humid Kerala climate may destroy whatever is left over in our environment.
What we have, at present, is only bits and pieces which are only POINTERS to some direction. That is why it is very important to be critical of these pointers. People can make stories. But that is not history. Personally I believe that if all of the Nasrani historians can lay aside their personal likes and dislikes and become impartial we can come to a fast conclusion. It is when we try to establish something we “want” that the history becomes so much muddled especially when there are lesser historical references.
There is a famous exercise in social science. Twenty people are asked to sit in a row side ways. Another person tells a long sentence in the ear of the first person which others cannot listen. The first person is asked to convey the same message ditto into the ear (without others hearing) of the second who does the same to the third and so on. When finally the message reaches to the 20th person, he is asked to repeat the message loudly. 100 out of 100 times the message will not be the same as the first printed message!! I have personally experienced this.
This is how tradition is transmitted. We cannot find the printed message as it is lost. However we know that there is some genuine stuff in the tradition. But the problem is how much of it is true and how much is added/modified.
This is what prompted me to believe what Amprayil has mentioned in one of his earlier comments: “Nasrani Levite community is like the priestly class of Namboothiri” that later turned out to be “Nasranis are priestly Namboothiri community”.
I). Please note that I have not mentioned Pesaha, patriarchal naming, Persian cross etc as “proofs” for Jewish heritage though they ARE IMPORTANT in our history. I quote from one of my earlier comments to Sungeo’s brilliant article on “Cultural Similarity…..” (It is his article that has prompted my article)!
“If we are to study the real influence of Jewish heritage on the Nasranis we should not be focusing much on the customs and traditions of these two groups because these can change over a period of time. They are not static. We should focus on certain unanswered questions which each Nasrani needs to answer”. (This is the 8th point in the said comment).
J). Pesaha, patriarchal naming, Persian cross etc are important because they will answer some other questions about our heritage.
For example, as Admin has pointed out correctly, if you find any foreign community like the Jews and Parsis in India keeping some of the Indian non-religious customs that will not be considered as strange since they are staying in India. But if an Indian community that has no idea about its heritage or history is found keeping some of the non-religious customs of a foreign community that will definitely look strange. Same way when you hear the Jews singing in Hebrew in Israel you will not find anything strange. But when you hear some Jews praying in Malayalam in Israel, immediately you become curious!!
Why do we keep the patriarchal naming? Why did we eat beef but avoided pork before the Portuguese? Why did we keep Saturday feast? Why did we consider the day from sunset to sunset?
Recently I found out another strange phenomenon. I went through the evening prayer book of the Nasranis with a lot of “Onissa Dwemma”, “Onissa Dwase” (Syriac terms) which are supposed to be used in the houses. What struck me was the “over dose” of quotations from Psalms!!! You take any Latin prayer books which will be full of prayers and novenas to saints or quotations from saints. If you find any quotation from the Bible in them it will be from the New Testament. But in the case of Nasrani prayer books the over dose of Psalms quotations will be very conspicuous. Right from the first page to the last we see psalms as prayers.
Secondly while the Latin prayer books give much importance to the New Testament as well as post Testament saints, the Nasrani prayer books give over due importance to the Patriarchs of Old Testament Abraham, Isaac and Jacob!!!! Why?????????? I found it very strange.
Remember Amprayil’s comment. We pray in Qurbana, “As you have accepted the incense from Aaron……..” Again another important OT figure!!!
Any comments from anyone?
[In fact my original 7 proofs for Jewish heritage have gone up to 12 now]!!!
K). Your comment on “no connection to Judaism”. I think we need to differentiate between Jewish heritage and Judaism. The first is a racial and cultural aspect while the second is the religious aspect. Both are not the same.
In this site we are talking about the first not the second. We do not follow Judaism without Jesus Christ. The Jewish Christians follow the Apostolic Christianity with some of the Jewish customs. Race and religion are two different things.
L). “Is there a pocket of Nasranis……” We cannot find this pocket because the Nasranis were never following the Jewish religion without Jesus Christ. But yes circumcision was replaced with baptism. For Torah, I have mentioned about an over dose of Psalms in our prayer books and Qurbana. We were keeping the kosher laws in earlier centuries.
I do not know about Judeo-Malayalam. If it is regarding the Syriac-Malayalam and the influence of Syriac on Malayalam, please read article “Save Syriac” by Admin in this same site.
M). Finally, I asked myself the question why do I find the Jewish heritage to be more reasonable than the Namboothiri heritage.
Like any ordinary Nasrani I too was brought up hearing a lot of namboothiri stuff. Personally I liked it very much because it has given us some kind of prestigious social acceptance. Even the Namboothiris, Nairs and other castes in my village never questioned this. There was an old incident in our village when the nearby ancient Hindu temple was about to take the “Deva vigraha” on a procession. As there were two infighting groups not allowing either group to carry the idol there arose a problem at the time of “Shubha Muhurta” (auspicious time that will lapse immediately) to carry the idol. My grand father’s father was standing there watching with his friends. The Namboothiri Poojari got impatient and asked whether any courageous Mappilas will help. My “don’t care” great grand father immediately jumped to the task. Later he was called to the church for an explanation. The punishment given to him was to carry the cross in the middle of the church for an entire Syriac Qurbana. This was told by my father.
Personally I like to have a Hindu origin than to have a Jewish origin.
However when I started to study the case I put aside all my personal likes and dislikes trying to be as impartial as I could. From all my study I came to the side of Jewish heritage and the shift happened in the last 6 months only. (Please note that by Jewish heritage I do not mean 100% Jewish heritage but a majority as I have clarified in my earlier comments. Let us wait for the DNA test).
This evening on ‘Shaw Cable’ TV – Calgary’ at about 6:45 or earlier, I saw an interesting programme on ‘History Television’. I do not yet have the programe title but it was a Travel/Investigative Documentary by a young Jew about the famous book ‘Da Vinci Code’ (I presume he is Jewish because he says he speaks Hebrew and …..). Those in the US and Canada can locate this programe.
The young man is told by the Syrian Christian Arch Bishop of the ‘Syrian Orthodox Church’ (I presume in Jerusalem) that the ‘Syrian Christians are descendants of the family of Jesus (to be careful, I must add something which Arch Bishop did not say but is implied that the Syrian Christians here may mean only those who are so in Jerusalem and family of Jesus certainly does not mean anything other than Jesus’s brothers, sisters, nephews, cousins, kinsmen etc..)
I well remember that some weeks ago in this forum we had half jokingly and half seriously wondered about the whereabout of the family of Jesus. We even opined if they may have gone to Malabar. Now that farfetched shot does not seem unreal in the light of the Arch Bishops statement. It is well known that many Syrian Christians migrated from the Middle East and even from Jerusalem.
In the doucmentary the DNA taking of the Syrian Christians in Jerusalem is actually shown and the results are compared with the *****blood line in France. The book ‘De Vinci Code’ is actually shattered in this programme. The documentary goes to establish that there is not even the tiniest DNA connection between the *****blood line in France and the Syrian Christians in Jerusalem.
I betcha that our Syrian Christian admin Jacob will be very happy to get the DNA results of those Jerusalem Syrian Christians.
My above presumption that the Arch Bishop was based in Jerusalem is wrong. I read in a write up of the TV programme that the Arch Bishop was based in Turkey.
Dear Joseph: Thanks for your reply.
Regarding your comment: “the Nasrani prayer books give over due importance to the Patriarchs of Old Testament Abraham, Isaac and Jacob!!!! Why?????????? I found it very strange.”
This, nor the prevalence of Psalms in our prayers, is not evidence for any purported Jewish cultural heritage of the Nasranis. Why? Because our prayer books—for *all* of us, whether Orthodox, Catholic, or Church of the East—we not written by our Nasrani forefathers, but by our Syrian Christian compatriots in West Asia. The liturgies we use were written by them, and also our official prayer books. So why do they overemphasize the OT patriarchs? Because Eastern Christianity is heavy on maintaining a continuous link to the old Rabbinaic Jewish faith. By your arguments all Syrian Christians (whether in Kerala or West Asia) have Jewish origins. And your can extend this to the Byzantine Orthodox Churches (and their factions) as well. None of this is unique to us.
Our use of these prayers is due to our acceptance of Eastern Syriac Christian rites, not because our ancestors were Jews.
And the same for our use of Syriac! We are Syrian Christians — meaning, we subscribe to either East or West Syriac modes of Christianity (and/or their Catholic Uniate schismatic factions). So we use Syriac. And the question may arise — “well why did our ancestors accept Syriac if it was a foreign language?”. Well, that question could be applied to the millions of Catholics who used to worship in Latin (which most didn’t understand) before their reforms — because that was the way it was. Or perhaps our ancestors way back when were descended from West Asian (not necessarily Jewish) immigrants, and so (like us Malayalees who grew up in the West) wanted to maintain a connection to their old culture by using their old language in the liturgy.
It doesn’t imply Jewish (cultural or racial) origin.
Now, just to be clear, I personally believe us Syrian Christians have West Asian origin. I.e., I think our ancestors immigrated from West Asia and intermarried with local peoples, to form our hybrid community. I never bought the myth that Mar Thoma came over and converted Brahmins to Christianity. Why? No offense to Christianity, but Vedism is a very evolved religion, and so were the Brahmins. Hey, the Brahmins in many ways were like the Jews, highly intellectual, concerned with scriptures and law, etc. And I don’t think they would’ve just converted to Christianity like that. It doesn’t make an ounce of sense. Our religion is different from theirs in critical ways. When I look at Catholic propaganda in Kerala in which they build dioramas depicting St. Thomas baptizing Brahmins, it is the height of ridiculousness, and demonstrates a lack of understanding of Vedism.
Now, despite my belief in our West Asian origins, I take exception to loose proofs of Jewish origin. Our use of Old Testament references attest to our East Christian origins only. The Persian Crosses attest to our East Syriac origins. J2 haplogroups — again, West Asian and not necessarily Jewish origins. (Of course, Cohanim-like genes suggest that some of us *might* have Jewish ancestry — “might” because there is no marker that proves Cohen origin; refer to the “some X are Y” does not imply “all Y are X” logical argument).
“There is not the least trace of any tradition either among the Syrians or among the Indians concerning the original introduction of Christianity into South India by the East Syrians. The East Syrian bishops and patriarchs who ruled the Indian Church from the earliest times down to the sixteenth century never claimed that their forefathers were the apostles of South India”.
Ok this is nuts. “There is not the least trace …”??? How about the fact that we were East Syriac Christians prior to the 16th century? Is that not evidence? We obviously accepted the rule of East Syriac bishops — if we had an independent origin then why accept foreign rule? This makes no sense at all.
The east syriacs — the most prolific church in Christianity which only fell due to its own mismanagement and due to the Mongols — most likely established us, bringing their reverence for Thomas over to Malabar. THAT statement has evidence. The claim that Thomas established us is nice, and I’d like to believe it, but it’s been embedded in so many ridiculous myths, that it sounds absurd nowadays. Let’s see real proof. Not just vacuous “consensus by historians”! (“Consensus by historians”??? History ought to be based on fact not “consensus”. Especially when historians carry over their biases, as evidenced by the multiplicity of off-base theories offered by Kerala Church historians). What constitutes real proof? How about this. Let’s see some concrete evidence for a first century church/cross/altar — anything — in Kerala. We never had whole-scale destruction of properties by Mongols or Muslims, so where is the evidence. Where are the graves?
Sorry — but the only hard evidence are the 9th century graves in Manarcad and the old Nestorian churches scattered around India/Ceylon. What does it prove? Our origins in the Church of the East.
I think it’s good to try to prove our pre-Nestorian origins, and our Jewish origins — if they exist. But I’d like to offer my criticisms to temper pure speculation.
I might be wrong, and there might be some evidence I’m missing. (I hope so!) Please tell me what that evidence is.
This is really a grave situation! Below are only my speculations.
One other reason that the graves were not so far been discovered would be due to the fact that ‘Malabar” has not so been a developed ‘archeological place’. The possibility of proofs being overlooked is very strong.
Further, John’s views about (right or wrong) Jewish/Coptic style tombs which are being discovered frequently in Israel and Egypt may be a bit out of place if applied to Malabar.
Nasrani or Jewish burial in Malabar would have been simple affairs. The body would have been wrapped fully or partially in a cloth and put beneath 6 feet of earth. There would not have been caskets/coffins made of metal/teak/stone etc. At the most only 1 to 2mm of cloth would have separated the dead man’s skin from the earth.
There would not have been brick or laterite stone sidewall revetments; there would not have been heavy granite slabs to cover the grave. But earth about a foot high would have been raised as a small mount on which some large stones of each about 20kgs would have been placed to avoid dogs and foxes to dig into. Remember that the Nasrani lived in Hindu Malabar and hence was subject to Hindu culture. The Hindu culture was and is not obsessed with tombs like Coptic’s or Jews or Muslims.
When the body is so buried and is in close proximity to the moist Malabar soil, then decomposition would be very rapid. The body would simply melt away in less than 5 years. It may take some more years for the bones to dissolve. Remember, in those early years there were no coffins/caskets. The body would have been limb while burying.
Malabar is one of the most densely populated parts in the world since many centuries. Millions of animals, large and small would have died there, yet during today’s farming or earth removal/disturbances, one rarely comes across skeletons of animals more than 15 to 50 years old. If animal skeletons of 200 years are not found, then Nasrani skeletons of 2000 years need not be found.
Yet, we must ask Dr. Nathan Katz or other authorities about the tombs/skeletons of the black Malabari Jews. Prof. Katz says that our Nasrani culture/traditions were in parallel to theirs. It is very possible that the dead black Jews can give us answers.
I hate to write this, but there is a possibility (remote I hope) that the first batch of converts by Saint Thomas would have been extinct or remained/reduced to a very few number and later on during the 1st to 3rd century and later refugees from the Middle East would have poured into Malabar taking on themselves the name of ‘Saint Thomas Christians’. The new refugees would not have any objections for the name ‘St. Thomas Christians, as their apostle in the Middle East/Persia would also have been St. Thomas. Remember that the converts by St. Thomas in Persia/Afghanistan, Pakistan, Northern India (perhaps even in Mylapore) were effectively wiped out. It is painful to digest the fact that possibly our favourite apostle did not always win and that often his labours went in vain (from a human point of view).
I think an emotional problem we may have is our possible mistaken belief that all who were converted by St. Thomas in Malabar prospered and grew in numbers. We must give allowance to the fact that this may not have been the case.
When the first batch of refugees came into Malabar, there may have been no Nasranis to meet them at port Pattanam/Crangnore. The Syrian Christian refugees would/might have heard about the visit of St. Thomas from the local black Jews. Ofcourse, this is all speculations.
I would like to know who are those west asians among us had been using aramic as liturgy same as we saw bene israelites in Mumbai. Just asking.
All the Syrian Christians of Malabar (and it’s parishes all over the Arab and Western world ) are using Syriac as their liturgy. Syriac is considered the classical side of Aramaic.
The Marthomites, Jacobites, Orthodox, Syro Malabar and the other churches use Syriac. But the Marthomites use Syriac the least and more on Malayalam, this has been due to their reformation.
Just in case you have not read the book by T.V. Philip – Early Christianity in Asia – Chapter 6, The Origins of Christianity in India, (access to it is already on this page), I am pasting a short clip from it which goes to strongly support the belief/tradition that St. Thomas was indeed the founder of Christianity in India.
“…….Similar to the Indian tradition, the East Syrian church holds a strong tradition of the apostolic activity of St. Thomas in India. This tradition is found in the writings of the Syrian fathers from the third century onwards. About this Mingana writes, “It is the constant tradition in the Eastern church that the Apostle Thomas evangelized India, and there is no historian, no poet, no breviary, no liturgy, and no writer of any kind who, having the opportunity of speaking of Thomas, does not associate his name with India….”
Dear John Mathew,
Quote you “Now, despite my belief in our West Asian origins….” Unquote you.
Glad that you admit of your West Asian origins. For that is one step forward. Understand that your objection is to our leaning towards Hebrew/Jewish/Israeli heritage without sufficient proofs.
You are in effect saying that our heritage would be from any one or more of the following ethnic groups,
1. Arab Christians
2. Non Hebrew Persian Christians
3. Syrian Christians/Nestorians/Eastern Orthodox Christians
4. Coptic Christians
5. Ethiopian Orthodox Christians
6. Phoenicians (Christians?) who were non Semitic
7. Greek Orthodox Christians
The above are the only 7 possibilities. Of the 7, we can easily eliminate the last 4 and focus on the first 3; you may please mull over this and share your further experiences with us.
But I can add with respect to all other ethnic groups that conmen sense tells us only the Hebrew/Jewish Christians would have the sufficient resilience to survive for 2000 years in Hindu/Islamic India as a micro ethnic group of 5 million in 1200 million. I recently learned that one can easily loose ones ethnic identity when that ethnic group is a micro minority.
Now touching upon a different matter which we have not so far discussed but yet relevant to our discussion is an area where I find the strength of our Nasrani heritage being put to powerful use is by the Malabari Pentecostals.
While in India and abroad, one is dumb struck by the religious enthusiasm seen in the eyes of a Pentecostal of Nasrani origin (this does not mean that I am a fan of the Pentecostals). One even wonders whether the Pentecostal movement started in the USA or in Malabar.
Their great advantage is their lack of egoism of heritage and their simple organizational structure. This makes them connect easily with the public and many souls are won for Yeshua by their efforts. I sometimes wonder whether our early Nasrani forefathers of the 1st and 2nd Century were kind of operating more of “Pentecostal Style” or the complicated structured style that we now follow?
Dear John Mathew,
In fact I was about to write a responsorial comment to your several comments under the “cultural similarities” article. Now I will try to amalgamate all the responses in one comment.
I really appreciate your sincere attitude when you say “I hope that one day I can have access to some real hard evidence to prove these stories that, admittedly, I want to believe”. This is exactly what I too am trying to find out; the hard facts! Hence whenever I engage in discussions through comments, my point is never to ridicule or “win” against others but to learn more. In fact I agree with NJ when he said “these kinds of questions/ concerns will definitely help people who are working on this to come out more precise on history with satisfying evidences”. Since I am only 7 months into this Nasrani history and heritage I know I have a long way to go.
ABOUT HARD EVIDENCES
First of all, our ideas of “hard facts/evidences” do not seem to be the same. For me, a hard fact may not be always “tangible”, it can be a strong logical conclusion from historical/archaeological references. For you the hard fact is always “tangible” such as graves, copper plates, steles etc. If we insist on such tangible hard facts the world history will be reduced by 1/8. To build up an entire history from graves and copper plates and steles is not advisable.
“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”. For example there was a time when I was interested in writing my family history. I could find “written” history as early as 1600s at the maaaaaaaximum. Prior to that it is only oral tradition. So I stopped writing. Does that mean that before 1600 my family did not exist? No. Only, there are no data except oral traditions.
In the case of St. Thomas Christians we do not have much “tangible” well written history but we have several historical references and archaeological findings to support the tradition. May be there are under the earth in Kerala several tangible proofs. I sincerely hope some one could plough the entire Malabar Coast and make it upside down so that we can study. But we have to satisfy with what is available with us now.
To cut everything in short, I have seen that we agree that the Syriac Christianity goes back “at least” up to the migration of the west Asians to Malabar. The issue is whether there were Christians prior to that. This is exactly what I tried to explain in my above article. I depended on Biblical, archaeological, historical and traditional references. So I will not repeat the same. It is true that the tradition as such cannot be depended since it is much distorted /modified. At the same time we cannot say that there is not even an iota of truth in the tradition. What we have to see is whether such traditions match with the available archaeological, scientific and historical references. If there is any conflict or incongruity or contradiction we need to study further. Take our own “Parashu Rama-axe” tradition as an example. We know very well that the scientific, geological and logical references conflict with this tradition. But there is “something” that is true in that tradition. Archaeologists state that once the entire Malabar Coast was under the sea. The entire Kerala was a reclamation from the sea by some geological phenomenon. So this “knowledge” from our forefathers was transmitted orally by generations and was distorted and modified into the current “axe” story.
FIRST CENTURY EVIDENCE
In the same way one of your observations conflicts with the available references. You have asked “Let’s see some concrete evidence for a first century church/cross/altar – anything – in Kerala”. You will never find any of the above from the first century simply because the first century Christians were never venerating cross; they never constructed any church building; they never made any altar. These are all “inventions” of later centuries. Acts of the Apostles is the first ever written history of the Christian church in the first century. It spans several decades of the church growth. You read from first chapter to the last and you will never find any apostle or Christian ever carrying or venerating a cross or constructing a church building or making altar for worship. To these early apostolic Christians, Christianity was a WAY of life (that is to be LIVED) not a conventional religion. They gathered together in individual houses for worship.
That is why I always repeat that the St. Thomas tradition, though true, has a lot of distortion/modification over the ages. Thomas never made any church construction. He never carried or established any cross anywhere. He never built any altar. What he built was Nasrani “COMMUNITIES” among or near the Jewish pockets just like Paul did in the Acts. Remember that it is the SAME Master who taught them all especially the 12 apostles and the 72 disciples. So we cannot expect only Thomas to behave in a different way. Even Paul, a later apostle makes the claim that it is Jesus who taught him directly (Gal.1:12). We cannot expect the same Master to teach different things to different apostles and disciples. That is why, in my article, I mentioned Acts as showing the pattern of essential Apostolic functions whoever they are and wherever they are.
So the point is, just because there are distortions in the Thomas tradition, we cannot entirely cast out the historical Thomas. Read the quotation of Mingana from George Mathew’s comment. It says that not a single historical reference right from the 3rd century church fathers onwards does not miss the chance to associate Thomas with India. I have seen even the western church fathers from 4th century onwards mentioning Thomas’ activities in Parthia and India.
Like you, I too find it very difficult to believe that Thomas converted Brahmins in India because all the logical historical references make it very unlikely. (There are several reasons, some of which I have already covered in my article). But that does not mean that Thomas never came to India. That is like throwing the child with the bath water!
REGARDING EAST SYRIAC CHRISTIANITY
It seems that you attribute the founding of the entire East Syriac Christianity to Thomas only. As far as I studied the history, I observed that there are several apostles who contributed in founding this “most prolific church” in the east. (By east I mean east of the Byzantium Greek churches). Please note that Edessa is not very far from Tarsus, the native place of Paul. In fact the place around Antioch and Edessa was often visited by Paul and Barnabas. Mar Mari, Thaddeus, Aggeus, Bartholomeo et al were very active in different places in the East. Even Peter was involved in founding this church. Read 1 Peter 5:13. He is in Babylon in Iraq during this time! [Note:- Many people wrongly state that here Babylon means Rome. I quote from Adam Clarke an authority on Bible commentary: “After considering all that has been said by learned men and critics on this place, I am quite of opinion that the apostle does not mean Babylon in Egypt, nor Jerusalem, nor Rome as figurative Babylon, but the ancient celebrated Babylon in Assyria, which was, as Dr. Benson observes, the metropolis of the eastern dispersion of the Jews”]
So there were several apostles and disciples behind the founding of the east Syrian churches, not Thomas alone. Majority (I know you will say “majority” or “consensus” of historians is not history; but I am constrained to use only the existing available evidences) of the historians I read pinpoint Thomas generally to Parthia, India and China.
This is exactly why I doubted in my earlier comment (and I still doubt) whether we can call west Asian migrants such as Knanayas who came from Middle East as St. Thomas Christians! We can very well call them Syrian Christians but St. Thomas Christians……….? In the Acts we see that Antioch and the surrounding areas such as Edessa are already converted by Christian disciples and we do not find Thomas’ name there.
I may be ignorant but I never read in history until now any reference to Knanayas and the west Asians as St. Thomas Christians. I will accept correction. But it should not be a corrupted form of Canai Thomas Christians. What I read until now is that these west Asian Christians came and joined with the local St. Thomas Christians and “later” together called as St.Thomas Christians. I may be wrong.
I am loudly thinking. If we can prove that the west Asians brought “their reverence for Thomas over to Malabar” then we need to see why they mentioned only Thomas when history shows that there were several Apostles? Why they did not bring reverence for Mari, Thaddeus et al for whom the east Syrians have reverence?
ABOUT WEST ASIAN JEWISH HERITAGE
You wrote “By your arguments all Syrian Christians (whether in Kerala or West Asia) have Jewish origins”. Exactly this is what I read in history though I did not mention it in my article. (Byzantine Orthodox Churches were Greek not Syriac. Correct?) Historians show that there was a heavy Jewish Diaspora in the East especially in Iran, Iraq, Syria etc (roughly the old Babylonian and Assyrian empires) in the first century compared to other places like Egypt, Libya etc. Even the Bible mentions this in Acts. On the day of Pentecost when Peter spoke, “And JEWS were living in Jerusalem, devout men FROM EVERY NATION of those under the heaven……. Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and those living in Mesopotamia…….” (Acts 2:5, 9). Many scholars mention that in the first century among the Christian converts in these areas the majority converted was from Jewish communities. So the West Asians who migrated to Kerala later to avoid persecution were very possibly from these Jewish Christians.
Now in the same breath let us logically consider another point. You wrote, “Eastern Christianity is HEAVY on maintaining a continuous link to the old Rabbinic Jewish faith”. You are absolutely right in making this statement. But you did not mention WHY?! When all over the Latin and Greek world Christendom hated Jews as “Christ Killers” and were avoiding Mosaic and other Jewish customs keeping away from them why the East Syrians did not follow suit? Going against the culture of the Age why they insisted on a continuous link with the Rabbinic Jewish faith IN SPITE of the fact that the same Rabbinical Jews were keeping away from the Jewish Christians? This goes deeper than religion!!! If you read both the above paragraphs it becomes logically possible that majority of the west Asians were from the Jewish stock.
This also will explain why unlike the other churches who were trying to avoid Jewish customs, “the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Church of the East………derived MUCH from the customs of the Jews”. (the quotation is from your comment).
This also explains in a better way your own comment that “especially with Eastern forms of Christianity (e.g., the Orthodox churches and their Uniate counterparts), the Jewish origins really SHINE through”.
You wrote “How about the fact that we were East Syriac Christians prior to the 16th century? Is that not evidence?” The answer could be “No”. It need not be the evidence for founding the Indian church. It is evidence for our dependence on them for bishops and liturgy. It shows that we were in communion with them for several centuries. In fact this is exactly what the Professor is trying to put forward; that in spite of our age long intimacy none of the east Syrian historians ever claimed their forefathers founding or introducing the Malabar church!
We never accepted any “foreign rule” in the actual sense. We accepted guidance and direction in the form of bishops from the East and that too upon our request. This happened after the west Asian migration as you have mentioned so it was not “foreign” rule after all. Even for the local Jewish converts this was not foreign as these bishops came from their old place in the Middle East.
This is one principle in migration. Except for the very few “path finders” the majority always tend to go where their brothers or cousins have already migrated. Same way the west Asians migrated to where they could find their cousins, the local Jewish Christians.
Another point for foreign bishops is that the conventional/traditional churches in the early centuries considered only apostolic Sees in Rome, Constantinople(Byzantium), Alexandria, Jerusalem and the East as sources for spiritual nourishment. Hence for Thomas Christians the nearest and the related See was the East. So they requested bishops from there.
ABOUT THE LITURGY
I have no knowledge about the history of our liturgy. In fact this was one topic I reserved for the last to study.
However considering the above point that west Asians were largely from the Jewish stock it will not be difficult to see the reason for the over dose of Psalms and the mention of Patriarchs in our liturgy. But are you sure that it was our Syrian Christian compatriots in the west who actually wrote the liturgy and brought to India for us? Did they actually write or did they only give guidelines of the liturgy? If they actually wrote that, then is it “exactly” the same with the east Syrian church?
I ask all these questions because I read Mingana stating that “The fifth century opens with an Indian Christianity which was in such a state of development that she is able to send her priests to be educated in the best schools of the East Syrian Church and to ASSIST the doctors of that Church in their revision of the ancient Syriac translations of the Pauline Epistles”. So if our local priests were able to do so much they could not write liturgies for us (of course under the guidance from the East)?
So whoever wrote it they wrote it knowing very well about the Jewish roots and the local Nasranis accepted it because they knew about the Jewish root. It is for the same reason that the Syriac Nasranis were deadly against the Latin liturgy which avoided almost all Jewish heritages from their prayers. If the local Nasranis accepted the east Syriac liturgy without knowing anything about Jewish roots they would have accepted the Latin liturgy the same way. They could have opposed it but they would never have made such a revolution such as the Coonan Cross Revolt.
I agree, the use of Syriac as proof, becomes meaningless when you connect it with the west Asian migrants. But it gets meaning IF Thomas came to Malabar. Thomas was speaking Syriac and the local Hebrews could understand him as they were also using Aramaic besides the local language. So IF Thomas came to Malabar then definitely he converted local Jews (because it is for them that he came) since both were familiar with Syriac and the Syriac “becomes” a proof for our Jewish heritage. (This is “one” of the several reasons why I find it difficult to believe that Thomas converted Brahmins as they do not speak Syriac).
Again I am ignorant about Latin liturgy history. You mentioned millions of Catholics used to worship in Latin before the reforms. Were the Portuguese or the Latin priests in Kerala conducting the Mass in Latin “language” among the Latin Christian brothers who were from the fishermen folks of the Kerala coast?
You wrote “We never had whole-scale destruction of properties by Mongols or Muslims”. True. But we had whole-scale destruction of heritage properties by none other than Keralites themselves who never bothered about their heritage or history!!!
I have another question. Forgive my ignorance. Do we have first century grave of “any” community in Kerala? Do we have graves of any community for each century? If we miss any grave for any one century, will it prove that Kerala was uninhabited by anyone in that particular century? (Please John, I am not sarcastic).
My parish church grave yard exists for several centuries. Even today if you go and visit it you will not find any past century graves as the Parish does not allow anyone to make memorial concrete graves. (A policy I liked very much). So all the graves are in sand and not more than one month old. After burial they remove the bones and dispose them. Imagine tomorrow all the parishioners migrate from this place. Anyone will buy this plot of land and turn it into an agricultural farm or will build a house there.
(I think George Mathew has tried to provide some possible reasons).
1). You mentioned the following:
That the Passover does not point to Jewish heritage
That the similarity of our music points only to the Semitic heritage
That the avoidance of Pork points only to the Semitic heritage
That the presence of J2 haplogroup points only to West Asian origin.
You also mentioned the following:
“On the other hand, do any of the Kerala Christian communities (especially the Knanaya) practice ritual circumcision? Now THAT is feature that is present in Jews and not, ritually, in Christians. If the Knanaya practice ritual circumcision, then I think their claims of Jewish origin are at least more tenable…………”
Oh dear, suppose there is a small group in Knanaya who are doing this ritual, immediately you will say that “Circumcision points only to the Semitic heritage as even the Muslims are doing that”!!!!
This is circular reasoning.
2). You say that Passover is observed by many Christian traditions. I agree with you. Circumcision is not observed by any Christian tradition. I agree.
But why? Because Passover, like Baptism was approved by Jesus Christ and the Apostles to be carried over to Christianity as religious custom whereas circumcision was NOT approved by Jesus Christ or the Apostles to be carried forward as religious custom.
If it was approved to be carried over, you would have seen the circumcision practiced among many Christian traditions. In that case you will again say that “the observance of circumcision is no evidence for Jewish heritage as it is observed by many Christian traditions”.
This is another circular reasoning.
The point is, you cannot expect the Jewish Christians to follow Judaism blindly. That is why I do not stress the religious Jewish observances like Passover, though VERY IMPORTANT, as Jewish heritages. But the non-religious customs like kosher laws are different.
PATRIARCHAL NAMING SYSTEM
You said the Patriarchal naming system is common among “MANY” patriarchal societies. Are you sure?
When we say naming system, it is not just putting the grand father’s or grand mother’s names to the eldest children. As NJ has pointed out an entire system follows like paternal grand father’s name, paternal grand mother’s name, maternal grand father’s name, maternal grand mother’s name, paternal eldest uncle’s name and so on and so on.
Sunish says that this is found in Sephardic Jews, Nasranis and Iyyer Brahmins of Tamil Nadu. I am not much knowledgeable on this.
COVER UP OF JEWISH ORIGINS
You have mentioned “I don’t buy that our people would want to cover Jewish origins”. The truth is the other way round. Our people do not want to “uncover” the Jewish origins because they do not find any pride in that. They find pride in Brahmin/Namboothiri heritage. You yourself have said “the Nasrani gives higher emphasis to his Brahmin heritage – because since we’re coming from a caste-centric society, one naturally wants to identify with the “winner””. (The Jews were “losers”). They also find pride in finding “continuity” with many of the east Syrian church traditions. But they stop there and do not go beyond to the Jewish roots because they do not find any pride in there.
I have found many ecumenical church historians or bishops or church authorities making “mistake” in stating that St. Thomas converted a lot of Namboothiries. But I never found them making the “mistake” of stating that we have Jewish heritage. If they found pride in being a Jew, at least some of them, for pride, would have alleged such a heritage. But they find pride in Brahmin origin.
They find pride in saying that their particular Nasrani denomination was and is in a continuous communion with their particular patron Church in the East throughout the past centuries. 101% I agree with your comment on the grandiose views of church historians of all the Nasrani denominations. But none of them finds any pride in Jewish heritage except the Knanayas.
The comparison of Nasrani-Jews with Muslim-Arabs may not be correct. No Muslim ever considered Arabs as “Mohammed killers”. Arabs were never without their home land. Arabs were never persecuted throughout any centuries. So they find pride in claiming to have Arab heritage. (By the way, I have read in history that many Kerala muslims have Arab blood in them).
However the Nasranis were brain washed and encouraged by the Portuguese to view the Jewish heritage with less enthusiasm. Some one commented that Claudius Buchanan mentioned in his book about the Portuguese effort to erase all traces of Jewish linkage of the Nasranis. This is exactly why we do not find any bishop or such church authority ever referring to the Jewish heritage.
I found it ironic that of all the commentators in this site you are the number one who is asking for real hard evidences. Yet of all the commentators in this site you are the number one in spreading possible stories without any references in the form of theory number 1, theory number 2, theory number 3 etc.
This is only an observation. Please do not get offended.
John, I really appreciate your comments because they have motivated me and prompted me to be more careful in future when we deal with our church history and heritages. I agree with your comment on “logical fallacies” and this was what I was trying to avoid in my study.
Keep up the sincere attitude.
All the very best.
Dear Joseph George:
Thanks for your reply. I think I may have been overly reactive/conservative in replying … probably because I’ve read so much church history and have become correspondingly sickened by loose ambiguous discussions of matters that require precise, rigorous discussions (Kerala Church historians being heavy on the loose talk).
But ultimately, I agree with this site’s premise, since all you are basically saying is:
1. West Asian Christians have strong Jewish cultural/ethnic heritage
2. We are close to the West Asian Christians (to the point of having their blood in us)
3. Hence we have strong Jewish cultural/ethnic heritage.
This makes sense, and I think with the genetic tests that are being done, and the work being done by scholars in preserving our Syriac texts, much hard evidence will emerge to demonstrate this point.
Now regarding our liturgies, and prayers: I’m no scholar, but from what I know, there is not one ounce of Indian Christian origin to any of the liturgies, prayers used by us Indian Christians. We use *their* prayers, whether *they* are the Syriac Orthodox or the Church of the East. However, maybe, before all of the colonialist intrusions, we had our own traditions. But every official text you buy from our respective Churches is just a translation of a West Asian text. So we can’t use that as proof if we want to claim that we, the Malabar people are of Jewish heritage without simultaneously claiming that that heritage stems from our connections to West Asia. (And yes, we’ve had several Malpans and scholars that have gained esteem — but they gained their esteem by studying West Asian texts, not by producing original works. I guess one counter to this is Abraham Malpan of the Mar Thomites … but then again, he was just applying the theories of the Protestant missionaries to the Orthodox liturgy.).
Regarding our Jewish heritage … I don’t know about you, but I’m Orthodox (non-Knanaya) and by both family tradition and also, to a lesser degree, by my experiences in my Church, Jewish cultural heritage in the form of a strong reliance on the Old Testament has always been a part of my heritage. Which is why I’ve always been keen on “proving” (via hard evidence) my own Jewish heritage (if it exists). I was happy to learn my ancestors were probably of West Asian extraction (by virtue of my family claiming descent from the West Asian settlers in Kollam) — as it brought me one step closer to a Jewish origin. Some of this is petty on my part — I’ve never liked the idea that my ancestors converted to Christianity, and any evidence to the contrary (i.e., that they were born into a similar religious set up) was always welcome to me.
Anyways, thanks for the dialog, Joseph!
(By the way, I don’t think I’ve been spreading my own theories here. I’ve just been offering alternative theories to counter other theories. Some people here are relying on Menacherry or 19th century English/American missionary writers, which in my opinion is tantamount to believing in fiction anyways… No offense!)
Dear George Mathew,
“Now touching upon a different matter which we have not so far discussed but yet relevant to our discussion is an area where I find the strength of our Nasrani heritage being put to powerful use is by the Malabari Pentecostals.”
Since you say it is relevant … how is it relevant? Are the Pentecostals Nasranis too? Aren’t they converts to an American sect of Christianity? How do they put their Nasrani heritage to powerful use? I’m just curious … because most Pentecostals I’ve met have been excessively hostile to Apostolic Christianity (i.e., Orthodoxy / Catholicism).
And you are joking right? The Pentecostal movement was born and raised in the USA … it’s existence in India is due to the same reasons as the existence of the Latin Catholics and the Protestants in India — missionary activity by Europeans/Americans.
Or am I wrong?
I share your views that the Pentecostals of Nasrani origin do not have leanings to their heritage. Some of them are indeed hostile to orthodoxy. Yet 2000 years of heritage can not be wiped out immediately. Some of them ‘sail on two boats’, for instance I know several who are fairly active Marthomites and also active Pentecostals. They claim to be Pentecostals but hastily add that they are by heritage Syrian Christians.
I know of some instances where the Marthoma church have asked such Pentecostals to choose either of them and not to ‘row two boats’. Often they choose the Pentecostal church and leave the Syrian Christian churches for good. When they do so, they take with them many things uniquely ‘Syrian’. Their social status, mannerism, culture, some heritage etc… There now comes a unique blend which is advantageous to him.
Now let me be location specific. Many years ago, I was working/farming in the Idukki District of Kerala, namely Peerumade Taluk. As you may know the local population is mostly Tamil laborers and are of lower social advantage. In their midst are a few Kurians, Georgekuttys, Paulose etc. from Kottayam/Kayamkulam etc… I have noticed that some of these Kurians/Paulose take to Pentecostilsm and soon in a few months/years he has a fair following of Tamil converts to Pentecostalims. These Tamils hold Kurian in good esteem and accept his spiritual leadership.
The Tamils do not see Kurian as one of their own, but as a ‘Kottayam Achayan’ from an ancient Nasrani family who is concerned of downtrodden Tamil laborers. Kurian is on a membership drive. The Tamils have a tendency not to respect someone of their own rank. This is a key to understand the situation.
Kurians intentions are not noble, yet they are not criminal. The word of God is being spread but at a ‘lower level of morality’. The Tamil who used to throw his wages away on liquor is now a non-drinker. He now reads the Bible, does not get into fights, cares for his children etc. stops beating his wife. Truly Brother Kurian deserves credit for this. This is happening very often and is not a rare case.
Kurian had given leadership. His assets were his ‘Nasrani’ heritage. I trust you know that the Tamil holds the Nasrani is high esteem. Kurian has now become ‘Brother Kurian’ to the Tamils. Kurian is now their legal/social/spiritual/economic/business/family/plantation advisor.
Kurian not only talks but he gets thing done. It will be difficult for us to admit this but it is happening. This Kurian can be your uncle or my brother.
If I have not answered your question, then let me know. I will try again. I will answer to your other questions also.
The Pentecostal movement in Malabar is different from the Latin Catholics/Protestant movement in Malabar.
Earlier, I had held the wrong view that Pentecostals grew because of ‘American Green Cards’. That was partially true but not fully. Pentecostalism grew in Malabar because of the HORRIBLE FAILURE of the Syrian Christians to follow Yeshuas commandment to ‘visit the sick, those in prison….’.
I can write pages and pages to prove that the Pentecostal are crooked, liars, etc and also write pages and pages to show that Nasrani are crooked and liars too.
The Nasrani failed in that basic of all human needs ‘The touch of a human hand on a greiving person’. We had become too Brahminish, too Doctorish, too Enginnerish to touch a stinking, withered old man suffering from kidney problems. For this crime we are paying by an increasingly high rate of divorces amongst our children. We had failed to show our children humanity. I suppose you know that our divorce records are the highest in India.
The Prostestant/Latin Catholics had the support of Institutions. But this is not always the case of the Pentecostals. It started off as ‘foreign’, soon they have become terribly home grown. As said by me, they have today beaten the Americans. Between neighbours, They are self governing. Many of us wrongly think that Pentecostals get their ‘Green Flag’ or get their ‘Red Flag’ from California/Texas. This is not the case. They can easily look after themselves and still grow without priests, bishops etc.. I can compare the Pentecostal churches with the ‘Al Queda’ cells springing up everywhere. Long live the Pentecostals.
Now, this does not mean that i am not for the Nasrani. Our forefathers about 2000 years ago, lived fairly similar to todays Pentecostals.
We need to once again bring in the FIRST CENTURY CHRISTIANITY into our lives. This does not mean that we should throw out the bishops. WE need Bishops and structure and order and Institutions. This means that we should throw out the greatest bane of the Nasrani, that is his EGO.
But those who do not have a EGO problem will be shinnig stars of the true Nasrani heritage.
On a spiritual level, I would rank the Pentecostal movement as higher over the Protestant/Latin Catholic movement in Malabar. Many of these Pentecostal have an awesome knowledge of the Bible. They know where they are going. I often think that they are our only hope against an Islamic onslought.
I also notice that Pentcostals love to go to jail in the Arabian Gulf. They take it as a credit to be persecuted for the sake of Yeshua. In the ARabian Gulf, the largest violators of muslim religious laws regarding preaching of Christianity is done by the Pentecostals. Boy! they are really active.
On the 28th of Jan. I had posted a comment about the relationship of the Syrian Christians with the brothers/Sisters of Jesus. I mentioned about a young Jew who was the host of the program on History Television.
Well! That young Jew is a really a very big TV personality in the world. His name is ‘Josh Bernstein’ and is one of the most important TV host. You can read about him in Wikipedia. He is a qualified Anthropologist and he was twice President of the prestigious ‘Pi Kappa Alpha’.
In the program, Josh affectionately tells his Holiness that they are cousins as he is Jewish and the Arch Bishop a Syrian Christian.
We are not alone in working upon the heritage of the Syrian Christians. One of the brightest Anthropologist minds seems also to have worked on this. Josh has strong recent ties with Jerusalem. His grandfathers and others are buried there.
I understand that there are Syrian Christians from Iraq/Iran/Turkey now in Chicago. We know that earlier those from Iran/Persia went with the name ‘Nazarene’. I wonder whether those that immigrated to Chicago still go by their old name ‘Nazarene’. Or are we Malabari Nazarenes the only ones still existing as ‘Nazarenes’?
Regarding the horrible failure of the Syrian Christians… I think you’re being a little unfair. You can’t just generalize and say that the Syrians ignore Jesus and maintain ego, while the Pentecostals follow Jesus and are ego-free. If that is your experience, well, then I have a different story to tell — every Pentecostal I’ve ever met has left me with a strong distaste for their religion and a questioning of their ethics and morals. But I can’t generalize still — I’m sure decent ones do exist. And although Syrian Christians like to spout myths about our origins, I’ve never really met a stuck up Syrian Christian who was stuck up because of his culture (of course, I’ve met stuck up Ph.D.s, engineers, doctors, etc, but that was due to class and not religion). I’ve met a Pakallomattom … and the only thing he was proud of was the fact that he had some successful kids … no mention of Mar Thoma I though MCMVIXXCLI, or De Campo, or Kuravilinganad (sp?).
And the Pentecostals are certainly not *our* hope against the Islamic onslaught (if it comes), since they do not maintain our culture. For example, when the Muslims overran our West Asian brother’s lands, they force converted a lot of Syriac Christians to Islam — but many of those convert Muslims (especially in areas like Tur’Abdin) apparently still maintain their pre-Islamic Syriac Christian culture. (A question: does anyone know about the cultural practices of our Malabar brothers who became Muslim after Tippu invaded???) Muslims even visit the tombs of Christian saints in the Middle East (especially that of St. George). If the choice was between Islam and Pentecostalism, in the interests of preserving my culture and heritage, I would most certainly and unhesitatingly choose Islam. The theology of Pentecostalism is very different from the Orthodox and Catholics as well (not so sure about the Mar Thomites, since I don’t know how much “reformation” Abraham Malpan and his followers did–perhaps you can enlighten me).
Finally, I don’t know where Jesus or any of our fathers said to go into another man’s land and offend his laws. Pentecostals are certainly not spreading *my* religion when they go into the Middle East and do things that get them jailed. They are not serving Christ by merely preaching things. If they wanted to help people — then they should help people instead of getting jailed. And if you want to hear about true sacrifice, how about our brothers, the Jacobites, Chaldeans, Syrian Catholics, and Roman Catholics who are being killed in Iraq, while they silently and diligently practice their religion in a way more in line to what Jesus taught? Is some showman who gets jailed for being a nuisance in Arabia really that pious?
A Muslim, Christian, or even a Pentecostal is equally capable of following our not following Jesus’ word.
You say “Pentecostals have an awesome knowledge of the Bible.” Okay, so what? Many of us do, but we don’t shove that down other’s throats. That, I think, is the difference. I’ve met plenty of Pentecostals who know how to spout single verse sound bites to vilify and denigrate my beliefs. I’ve not met *one* who would wait long enough for me to read the entire passage to refute his argument. I think the Pentecostals read a lot of Bible-based books and polemics against other creeds, produced by their foreign “masters” .. and these have a lot of the one-liners that they like to spout. I don’t buy that they engage in a scholarly study of the Bible … I think they like to recite *policy* from their manuals, with the associated quotes from St. Paul (which is who they quote most of the time — not Jesus, not the Old Testament fathers, and certainly not James nor Peter … just Paul).
Now having said all of this … I think our Chuches (the organizations) have done a horrible job of implementing Christianity. But, Christianity has never been in the hands of the Church. Practically speaking, the Church really only serves one function — to maintain the rituals. No one has never needed Bishops — the Church needs them only to ensure that rogue priests don’t go around re-writing the Qurbana to mislead the generally-ignorant people. It is a fallacy to assume that Apostolic Christianity (as opposed from sects which grew out of the minds of Americans in the 19th century) is only about bishops and priests and hierarchy. The faithful largely ignore that layer and execute their own religion. As well, you talked about Kurien and his “membership drive”. Now, what is that? Independent action by an individual Christian executing Christianity? No way — Kurien is taking his commands from someone, and he has to in order to maintain his status amongst his Pentecostal buddies. Now me? I’m Orthodox … but I have never did what any bishop asked me to do. I may kiss their hands when I can’t avoid it, but I don’t take orders. And the same for most Catholics and Orthodox people … we may have the hierarchy blowing hot air about us, but in general, apart from some modicum of respect due to their position as maintainers of the “True Faith”, we execute our own religion, independently.
Finally — we have a high divorce rate, eh? That’s progress, along with heart disease, cancer, and staying up at ungodly hours writing on blogs … It’s not because we’re non-spiritual Syriacs.
You have given your perspective. I can understand you. Your were initially difficult for me to understand but the moment you mentioned that you are an ‘orthodox’ from Kollam/Quilon, then everything fell into place. I have freinds and relatives from there. I know about the compartively later immigration of Nasranis from the Middle East to Kollam. My pleasure to be in contact with you.
Though a very flexible/adjusting person, I will stand by what I have written. I write knowing what is the ‘Agenda’ of Islam and the ‘Agenda’ of Pentecostal Christianity.
But if your writings are based upon atleast 5 years of stay in the Middle East, then I will give weightage to it, If you have not lived in Saudi Arabia or Qatar etc., then I must recommend you seriously study Islam as is practised upon non-muslims and in particular the agenda/thoughts of our Malabari muslims compatriots. The best teachers will be Nasranis who have Middle East experience. You may then want to change your views.
As we know, divorce is a horrible thing. The biggest sufferers are our children. We Nasrani are now leading in divorces. It is a very clear indication that our Spiritual values have collapsed. Rev. Stanely Jones (a veterean American Evangilist and admirer or Gandhi and India, is on record as saying -Quote ‘ … of all the ethnic groups, nationalities, sects in the world, the relationship between the husband and wife amongst the Syrian Christians of Travancore is the best’.
Our marraiges were solid but today it is rapidly changing. YOu know about all this. God is no more the heart of a marraige. YOung couples have no idea what Traditions are or mean. It is too late. Even ‘NSC’ with all her efforts to correct the situation is bound to fail. We have failed to in-noculate values into our children. Yes, I will confirm that ‘ high divorce rates have a direct corelationship with poor spirituality, in our case ‘Syriac spirituality’.
The more we move from the center of our heritage, the more we move towards serious problems like divorces. I am told that a sickening 50% of the marraiges in Calgary/Canada end up in divorces. But this masks the fact that most of the couples outside of the married ones are not married but are ‘live-in-couples’. For many life is one big mess. This mess touches everything in it’s wake and messes up those too.
Our efforts should be to regain our lost heritage and continue with our way of Nasrani life. Always remember what Rev. Stanley Jones told about Syrian marraiges. You can check him up. His books are there in Christian bookstores in India and in American libraries.
In my view, the Pentecostals are generally okay with the Marthomites because the Marthomites do not venerate saints.
As a Marthomite myself, I have no problem with those who venerate or not venerate saints. My problem is the looming threat of Islam destroying our heritage.
Earlier I was mad at our forefathers for giving the scepter to Vasco de Gama. But the moment I understood the motivation behind for giving it to the Portuguese, I no longer hated the Portuguese. In fact I am grateful to them, though they destroyed a lot of my heritage.
Guess that was the price to be paid for avoiding total annihilation. I was only sorry that I stumbled upon this truth and did not have anyone to tell me this.
Practising ones religion is an orderly way in a basic human right. We Christians in the Middle East can not practise it.
I was only saying that the Pentecostals are daring in so far as meeting secretively in houses and praying. I have done this with the Pentecostal in Arabia. It was done in quietness and secretiveness and always in fear. Our Nasrani forefathers did the same in Israel/Palestine/ Syria. During those early years Christianity was banned. Those practising it was punished to death. Yet they met secretively and worshipped. They do this today in China, some years ago in Russia. .
What are catacombs? Why do we Nasranis burn incense? Our forefathers always broke the hostle laws.
Since I don’t have Gulf experience, I apologize as I’ve obviously touched a nerve. However, I don’t understand one thing: if you want to maintain our semetic heritage, then Islam is closer to it than Pentecostalism. If you want to maintain Apostolic Christianity, then neither are close to us, and both are far from us (where “us” means the Orthodox or Catholic religions). If you are a Protestant, however, the situation is different. But, as far as I can see, the Nasrani heritage is an eastern christian heritage and the only churches in the east — before the missionaries — were the Orthodox, the “Nestorians”, and maybe the Catholics (via the Maronites). The Protestants are not a part of eastern Christianity, and are a fully western import. (The Mar Thomite sect is interesting in that respect, as they maintain modified Orthodox liturgies and customs, but are, at their core Protestant — something very novel, but still rooted in missionary action.)
Regarding marriage… I don’t agree. Our Syriac spirituality has no influence on this. Let me restate: those of us who have a sense of spirituality (regardless of creed), will probably be less likely to get divorced. And people who are not bound by spiritual restrictions will probably go and do whatever the norm is.
The peoples you are referring to are people who were born and brought up in the west. And for them their divorce rates are probably due to the fact that they are in a culture where divorce and alternative relationships are prevalent. So it filters in. Here in the West, there are plenty of pentecostals who get divorced, as there are atheists, theists, Catholics, and Scientologists, etc–it is a human property (probably rooted in our genes). To say that just because some of us Syriacs get divorced, the whole community / religion is rotten is too general and wrong.
Finally, I have relatives in Saudi (the worst of the Gulf nations for religion) who conduct their daily prayers (us Orthodox have to do it nine times a day — probably why I like the Muslims, since they’re similar in practices) in their homes. So do I here in Canada. I don’t see the big deal — they don’t get caught because they do things intelligently. But that is the nature of us Eastern Christians — in the words of St. Isaac of Nineveh: “The man who follows Christ in solitary mourning is greater than he who praises Christ amid the congregation of men.” I guess that’s the different between the Orthodox/Catholics (former case) and the Protestants/Pentecostals — which makes it unsurprising that the latter get treated poorly in the Gulf.
The Marthomites are not ‘Protestant’. They are St. Thomas Orthodox Syrian Christians Protestant division is a Western division and is not connected to the Syrian Church.
But I do agree that the Anglican (read ProtestantS) did have a strong influence on a section of the Jacobites during the Reformation years in early 1800s. . Those that were most influenced became ‘Mar Thomites’.
I believe that the Jacobites were also influenced by the Anglicans but to a lesser degree.
I do know that some people consider the Marthomites as Protestants. The Marthomites simply want to follow the teachings of St. Thomas as during about 52AD. Before the Protestant Church or the Catholic Church was established the St. Thomas Church was establised in India (according to our tradtion). It is this background in me that makes me very comfortable with our Nasrani heritage.
The Nazerenes of Urmia were not Protestants but ‘Nestorians’. The Naserenes in Urima during the 1840s had similar faith as the Marthomites of Malabar.
You can know more abou this, only if you interact with others and ask questions. I am happy that I got a chance to say this to you.
Yes! you are very right. The Marthomites are a very unique. The Marthomites are the only (nearly only, as I understant that a Ukraininen Church which is Greek Orthodox has now also gone back to first century christianity) Eastern Orthodox Church which has gone back to First Century Christianity.
There has been lots of Reformation in the Marthoma Church and I am pro-reformation. The only part I am unhappy about the Malabar/Marthoma reformation is the less importance the Marthomites gave to our Syriac language. Syriac is still there in the liturg but Malayalam is overwhemly dominating. This has its own plus and minuses but I am not happy about it as it stand today.
Yet to be honest, I am a great fan of todays ‘Roman Catholic Church’,I love the Roman Catholic Church.. I think they are achieving great things more than us. A young preist in the Marthoma Church once remarked ‘ Once we consider our Church as perfect, on that day our Church dies…’. We have to reform and move with the times and yet maintain the purity of Yeshua’s teaching. This is the awesome leadership responsibility of our Bishops. They have a huge burden upon them which ordinary preists do not have.
The Messanic Jews who are highly sophisticted have a lot of Hebrew in their liturgy. This makes me sad for the Syrian Christians.. Many of the Messainic Jewish chldren reared in the heart of Western culture can read, write and speak HEbrew. But our Syrian children know only two or three words of Syriac. This is shameful..
Please do not get the impression that the Pentecostals are pro Marthoma. No, they are not. I am only saying that of all the Syrian Churches, the Marthomites are closer to them. Still the gap is wide. Remember that there are many Pentecostals who are noble and very good.
When I mentioned about divorces amongst us Nasranis, actually it was Kerala and India that went in my mind, not really Canada or the US. From what I hear from India, divorces are on the increase there. Often, those who marry do not have children for two or more years after marriage as they don’t have enough trust on each other. Please tell me that I am wrong.
I may not be surprised if statistics show that divorce rates amongst the Nasranis are lower in the West than in India, particularly in Kerala.
Regarding the Muslims paying respect to St. George in the Middle East. It sound good. But please do not fall into a trap. The Muslims say that they respect Yeshua and that they hold him in high esteem. Yet they clearly say that Yeshua is not God but only and entirely a man. This means that St. George, you and me are liars for saying Yeshua is God. Above all things, it also means that the Muslims call Yeshua himself a liar as Yeshua calls himself as from God and one of God.
How can the Muslims ever respect the greatest of all Syrian/Nasrani martyrs St. George when they call St. George a liar? Please answer me!
I read that St. George was tortured to the extreme extend and still he did not denounce Yeshua. Every Syrian/Nasrani male and female who witnessed the torture and the execution swore under his/her breath that the next male child born to him/her would be named after this great man so that his memory shall never die. That is why the name George is the most popular name amongst us Syrian Christians, not only in Malabar but also in the Middle East (but less so.)
Your statement that the Mar Thoma Church is Orthodox is not true — it most certainly is a Protestant church. There is no Orthodox Church that is in communion with the Mar Thomites. If a Mar Thomite were to marry an Orthodox (or a Catholic), the baptism of the Mar Thomite would not be fully recognized and would have to be re-done in a sense. I know this because my mother was Mar Thomite prior to her marriage. My brother was also baptized as a Mar Thomite (due to geographical problems for my family) and had to be rebaptized into Orthodoxy prior to them allowing him to obtain Qurbana.
Orthodoxy is a very specific thing, and the Mar Thomites (under the influence of the Protestant Missionaries) obliterated many specifically Orthodox things, and their communion with worldwide Orthodoxy. Moreover, when Mar Thomites go into foreign countries where there is no Mar Thomite Church, your Church suggests that they go to Anglican Churches to receive communion — not the local Orthodox Churches.
Martin Luther is regarded as a heretic by all the Orthodox; this is not so amongst the Mar Thomites, who regard his “reformation” as something good, and not heretical.
The Protestant missionaries had an influence on Jacobites in the 1800s — this led to their schism and the formation of the Mar Thomite Church as a Church *distinct* from the Jacobites. The Jacobites who remained reaffirmed their allegiance to the Jacobite faith of Antioch (at the Mavelikara Council), repudiating every ounce of “reformation” introduced by the missionaries. The only thing we retained were the numerous copies of the Pshitto that Buchanan helped to get printed for us. There is not a single ounce of Protestant theology or influence in the Jacobite Church — that was purged during the schism when your church left Orthodoxy.
Mar Thomites have a mythical belief that they maintain the “original” faith. This is ridiculous … Orthodoxy maintains a connection with the past because we *do not* allow modifications to our faith. We were frozen after the third council; the Nestorians after the second council. The Mar Thomites accept Luther, who came over a thousand years later. And like you said, they continue their reformation. (This is why I was astonished to read that you, a Mar Thomite, were so fanatical to maintain your heritage when you belong to a faction of Christianity that is against the ancient ways and is for reformation. George, if you are upset that your religion scratches away elements of our heritage, understand that is part and parcel of your religion. Slippery slope, isn’t it?).
Similarly, the Mar Thomites feel that the Jacobite reverence for Saints, the dead, etc, is due to Catholic influence. Absurd! The Catholics and the Orthodox are similar in this respect NOT because the Catholics influenced the Orthodox (or vice versa) but because they get this from the ancient Church from which they spring. The fact of the matter is that the protestant missionaries who came to India were very ignorant of the nuances of Catholicism or Orthodoxy (sort of like every protestant I’ve met … wholly ignorant of everything other than their own interpretations). They didn’t know much other than that everything needed to be reformed and purged of things that sounded Catholic. Being from Europe (the west side) they knew nothing of Orthodoxy, and still nothing of Eastern Oriental Orthodoxy or Nestorians. They, in their ignorance, led others (like Abraham Malpan and his nephew) into ignorance — resulting in the schism.
I have an uncle in India who is absolutely ignorant about these issues, believing that the liturgy of St James was not from the Orthodox. And this uncle is a seminary trained Mar Thomite.
The Mar Thomite Church goes back to the 1800s. That is all. By their heritage from Antioch (via the Jacobite faith of their ancestors) they go to the first Century. But when they split from Antioch they lost their communion with that faith, with the first of your bishops being excommunicated.
I’m sorry George, but you are dead wrong here. The only people on this planet who would buy that the Ma r Thomites are the original faith are Mar Thomites. No one else accepts the Mar Thomites as anything other than a product of protestant missionary activity in Kerala. You can call yourself Apostolic, Orthodox, and the “original faith” but show me the proof! The Syriac Orthodox (who totally reject you as heretics) have texts that go back to the early centuries. The Mar Thomites have texts that go back to the 1800s. And their vestiges of the ancient liturgy are nothing other than what they inherited from the Syriac Orthodox.
Again: every ounce of tradition and practice in the Mar Thomite Church that have antiquity are those that they derived from the Orthodox. But the core of their faith, the inner prayers their priests recite are Protestant. They maintain the image of the old on the one hand (to prevent traditionalists from leaving) but they worship according to protestant innovations.
And none of the Byzantine Churches (e.g., the Ukranians you mentioned) go back that far, with the only exception being the Greek Orthodox Church (of Greece) and the various Melkite churches in the middle east. The oldest Orthodox Churches are the Coptic, the Syriac, and the Church at Jerusalem (Syriac). Then comes the Persian churches (Syriac Orthodox and Nestorian). Perhaps a Ukranian you’ve met spoke broadly about his faith being old. That is common in Christianity with many people talking big but without proof.
No offense to the Mar Thomites. Half my family are of that sect as are the bulk of my friends. And for the first ten years of my life I went exclusively to the Mar Thomite Church (geographical problems). They are all around nice people, do doubt. But they have an irritating trait: they don’t know much about history, and they follow the myths propagated by their bishops very faithfully — the problem being that these myths were imparted to them by the missionaries who in their zeal to spread the faith of Protestantism, didn’t mind destroying other faiths. (Alexander De Campo, Abraham Malpan, and Mar Ivanios are all in the same boat — all induced schisms, breaking ancient eastern allegiances and forging new western ones. However, De Campo and Ivanios are at least tolerable since they forged an alliance with an Apostolic Church; the Mar Thomites are in that no-man’s land of Protestantism, unapostolic, unorthodox, and pure innovation.)
Regarding St. George and the Muslims:
People who have identified as Christians (followers of Jesus) throughout the centuries have had a variety of Christological positions:
a) some viewed Jesus as fully divine
b) some that Jesus was both human and divine
c) and others that Jesus was fully man
(a survey of Christian history should help to apply terms to these: Chalcedonian, Nestorian, Monophysite, Dyophysite, Arian, etc).
Also they generally view each other as heretics. But despite this, they still are unified by the fact that they at the very least accept Jesus’ teachings as Golden.
So with the Muslims. They view Jesus as a very important Prophet, and give him the respect he deserves. They view Orthodox Christians as being corrupted in their facts. The same way Christians view other Christians as heretical. It is absurd to expect Muslims to accept our position because that is not their faith. And vice versa. But the Muslims, given the confines of their religion, continue to respect Jesus and also his saints.
Don’t be so dramatic, introducing terms like “liar” and so forth. No Muslim ever called me a liar. Most of the ones I’ve met have been fascinated by my speaking a language similar to theirs (Syriac) and the similarity of our prayers. The religions are different and so obviously will not accept each others Christological and Theological viewpoint. The fact that they respect George and other saints is very significant, and worth of respect itself. They don’t have to respect George, since he was not Christ nor in their Quran. He was a Christian after all — but they still do so. Do we Christians respect their Prophet? Despite his accomplishments in ridding Arabia of polytheism and vile practices, we still view him as a Muslim and hence something other than one of us.
And Muslims don’t call Jesus a liar: they say that *Christianity* got it wrong by not understanding who Jesus was. They hold Jesus in high regard, and would probably cut your tongue out if you suggested that they hold Jesus to be a liar. They also respect Mary too (something beyond many Protestants). And the Muslims have one big point in their favor: they have good record keeping and know that their Quran is the original Quran. Jews don’t have that for the Torah, with scattered manuscripts making dating difficult, and the same for us Christians. Plus the tampering with manuscripts that Christians and Jews have done in the past (e.g., look at your Bible, George, and compare it with mine. Why does yours have so few books?) So, the Muslim is very hard to convert to Christianity because of the high level of evidence they have for their position. We don’t have evidence. We only have faith. To expect that they should accept our word just like that is highly unreasonable.
A little bit of understanding would help a long way. Would you accept Islam, even though they have meticulously preserved their texts better than us? No, of course not. That is despite the fact that they have evidence. Now how can a reasonable man expect a Muslim to convert to our position, when we can’t even defend it with evidence. What is the date of the Gospels? That’s an area of debate. The Muslims don’t have to debate because they have the documents to prove their position.
Some Muslims are fanatics; some are moderate; some are tolerant; some are pure evil. The same can be applied to all religions.
(This is actually funny… In many ways the debate is similar to that of the Orthodox and the Mar Thomites. The Orthodox have bona fide evidence of our antiquity. Our faith is old and we can show it. As well, we don’t go destroying our ancient ways in the name of “reformation.” Moreover, we are in communion with all the other Oriental Orthodox churches, who similarly have old origins and the proofs. The Mar Thomites on the other hand, have no evidence for anything other than the fact that they use a modified Syriac liturgy — and that, modified by *heretics*. And no Orthodox, not even the Catholics, are in communion with the Mar Thomites. But the Mar Thomites *claim* antiquity and that is enough for them. No Mar Thomite would come to the Orthodox faith despite the fact that we can prove that their errors were introduced by foreigners. )
I don’t want to win an argument and loose a friend. I have spoken to you from my heart. Let time decide.
Yesterday, I was rudely jolted from my ‘comfort zone’ by a freind that I am disobeying the great commission given by our savior. That is to go out into the world and spread the Good News and to make all men my disciples’.
I tried arguing with him saying what Yeshua meant was to live a good life and witness to others by doing so. He disagreed and inisisted that ‘..You must preach and tell all others that Salvation is only from Yeshua and if it is not so that Yeshua Himsefl is a liar’.
I told him it was a tough call, too hard for me to go and tell all creatures that salvation is only through Yeshua. He gave me an unforgettable reply and it was ‘… yes it is very tough, St. Thomas suffered a lot crossing oceans and jumping into boats and ships, landing in strange lands, all thousands and thousands of Kms from him family, St. Thomas obeyed Yeshua, we all have to do the same’.
Last evening I realized my inadequacy. I am not going to a Hindu or Muslim and tell him that Salvation is only through Yeshua. No, I will not’. I can live a good life but not tell him that Salvation is only through Yeshua. Yet in my heart I know that my freind is right and I am not going to do it. It is too too too too difficult. I can now understand how great men like Peter, Thomas and Paul were. Phew! what daring!
A freind of mine, similar to you, half Jacobite and half Marthomite said he calls himself ‘Jacomite’.
We have to come together, all under one umbrella. There are several cells functioning all over Canada and the US where Jacobites, Catholics, Marthomites, Pentecostals etc. get togeher frequenlty and pray and have close fellowship. It is a begining. One thing is sure, we can not make the mistake our forefathers made of being ‘INWARD’ looking. We have to be “OUTWARD looking. We have to get our strength, direction and thrust from our Nasrani heritage.
What you’ve said is clearly in line with the philosophy of this website.
In those terms, I guess I’m in the wrong. I’m Orthodox to the core, and personally have more fellowship with other Orthodox people and more in common with them too. For example, I don’t feel I could ever go to any of those trans-denominational cells you mentioned. I’d probably get sick of the neutralized prayers and have to leave.
Anyways … it was good talking to you. I respect your strong belief in your position (despite the fact that history disproves you case…). Personally, I’m interested in Nasrani history because I want to learn more about myself, and not because I want the “community” to become one, nor for religious reasons. The community, with it’s high-caste garbage has done a lot of evil in Kerala in the past (e.g., the theft of properties from the “low-caste” peoples of Kerala, etc), and so I feel its decay is probably as a result of this decadence (My position is sort of like the Orthodox Jews in their opposition to the state of Israel: they believed that their statelessness was due to their sins, and so opposed the creation because they did not feel they deserved a state. Of course, the situation is different now, but that was how it was back in the early 20th century).
But as a sidenote … I think the essense of Christianity is the Sermon on the Mount and the teachings of Christ on how to live. Those two things are extremely difficult to follow in and of themselves. Personally, I believe that it is far easier to run around trying to convert people, than to execute the concepts specified by Christ. And this is my theory for how Christianity (and all factions and sects) became so distorted: rather than living the hard life of truly following Christ, these various Churches went around telling other people what to do. They focussed on one simple verse (“Go forth…”) than on the actual teachings.
I used to respect the Church of the East because they were the greatest Church in terms of geographical area and population, bringing Christianity all over the place. However, in all their zeal, they obviously didn’t take to the message, as their Church decayed due to various political problems in their administration—when bishops start to fight, clearly there is a problem! And same with the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox, and the Protestants. They are all rather rotten on the whole — there are great individuals on all sides, but the organizations are generally corrupt. So I really take exception to the idea that I have to spread the word. The word is beyond me (since I’m a pretty bad person when it comes down to nuts and bolts) — so how can I go and spread it?
I fully agree that the Sermon on the Mount is very important. But is it the essence? The essence is ‘To do unto others what you want others to do unto you’. If I were not washed by the blood of Yeshua, then I would want someone to tell me of the need to be washed.
This is about being in the team of the greatest rescue mission and the team is led by Yeshua . Please think about it. Hopefully you will agree that this is the most important thing for us to focus on, ie. saving human souls. We can leave aside the matter of whether we will join this team or not. Let us for this matter alone call a spade a spade. For everything else in life let us have double standards, except for this.
My being wants to reject this commandment of Yeshua so it comes up with the excuse that ‘… this is so mechanical and lacks depth and is so damn simple and lacks ethics, morality, values that it can not be very close to Yeshua as me donating my kidney or eyes for others…..hence I will lay aside this commandment and focus on living a good life…;’
Perhaps I can come up with a better idea of giving a good percentage of my income by cheque for supporting missionaries who go out to Thailand, Sudan, New York etc and convert the natives to Christianity.
I can come up with several brilliant ideas to avoid in actually leaving my ‘Comfort Zone’ and convert others. I can even quote the law of India or Arabia which is very clear that convertion is not to be done. But is this what Peter or Paul or Thomas did?
LIke you I have heard dozens of lies from the mouth of Pentecostals (and from Nasranis too), but my liking and respect for the Pentecostals is for their daring to convert others. They go where we fear to tred. Ofcourse, they have their eyes on money, I do not deny it but that does not worry me much as it used to. I kind of believe that a laborer is worthy of his wages. I wish Pentecostals would do without money but then I can’t live without money then why expect them to live without it?
.Yeshua seems to be more with them than with us. Their group has Sri Lankans, Tamils, ex Nasranis, Marthomites, Orthodox, RCs etc..
You must have heard of the American saying ‘.. YOu say you are not racist, but then how is it that all your freinds looks just like you….’. You or me as a Orthodox/Marthomite have only Syrian Christian for our fellowship worships, how is it we do not have Sri Lankans, Tamils, Telugus,Ezhavas in our prayer fellowship? How many Sri Lankans attend prayer in your house?
Let us admit it that WE ARE RACIST/CASTIST. The Pentecostals are not. This is their great strength. We have to bow our knees to them for this matter. The sooner we consider them as legitimate Christians and as a legitimate Church the better it is.
The Sermon on the Mount does include ‘running around and telling a Muslim or Jew or Hindu that Yeshua alone is salvation and that salvation is not from anywehre else.
I can be hungry, sick and poor and still be in my ‘Comfort Zone’ but when I become an evangilist fighting to win souls for Yeshua, then I enter the ‘Battle Zone’.The enemy sees me from far and attacks me even before I formally start the fight. I am now doing ‘Spiritual Warfare’. No more Comfort Zones for the rest of my short life.
John! do you see why you and me don’t like this commandment of Yeshua to us to win souls?
I see more Pentecostals winning souls for Yeshua than do the Nasranis. I want you to change your attitude towards the Pentecostals. They are not perfect and they do have this nasty habit of targeting Mary the Mother of Yeshua and Saint George etc..Just overlook these and see their many plus points.
Saint Thomas Orthodox Church
My definition of ‘Orthodox Church’ means a church following the beliefs and traditions established by Saint Thomas/Apostles in the year 52AD as understood from the Bible.
Your definition of ‘Orthodox Church’ means the church following the traditions and beliefs from the year 52 AD to date establised by Saint Thomas/Apostles and the other later saints as understood from the Bible and later events.
My definition is narrower, your definition is wider. If the wider definition makes you a better Christian, then follow it and I will be closely watching you.
Hold on a second… The “Orthodox Church” as it is understood by the mainstream of Christianity, is my definition. I know there are Protestant “Restorationists” who believe they are following the original Church; however, that is a matter of opinion. The truth is, the way the Church was in the beginning is shrouded in mystery — mostly due to the Orthodox/Catholic Church’s suppression of the original cults. However, the oldest continuous form of Christianity in existence today is the Orthodox/Catholic Church (as understood by the mainstream; this excludes Protestantism which was formed in the 15th century, and the Restorationists which were found in the 19th century).
But does it matter to be Orthodox/Catholic? Nope … not in my opinion. Jesus’ words are quite clear and don’t need interpretation by Churches and leaders.
However, if we are going to use terminology, then we should us it correctly: Protestantism and its derivatives (including the Mar Thomite Church) is most certainly *not* Orthodox.
And which faith did St. Thomas preach and believe? Well, he, since he knew Christ, transcended all of this stuff. No Nicene creed for him! Unfortunately there are no canonical works by St. Thomas to base our discussion. You may choose to believe that St. Thomas liked to hold “faith gatherings” and speak in tongues, or whatever else you like to do, in order to justify your own personal practices — in fact that is what most of us St. Thomas Christians do! One will say, St. Thomas was like a Jacobite, another a Nestorian, and another a Catholic, and (most silly of all) some will say he was like a Protestant. I’m not going to go there. He followed Christ. That’s all.
And none of our communities (even the oldest, the Church of the East) is following things like St. Thomas did — at least, we can’t prove it because we don’t have the documents. I’ve read some absurd things like “St. Thomas came to Kerala and celebrated the Syriac liturgy there.” Oh really?!? How do you know that? There most likely wasn’t even a liturgy back then!
Anyways … just wanted to comment on your last post, because the term “Orthodox Church” is not a loose term that ought to be misapplied to a Protestant Church.
Regarding your post on spreading the word: I beg to disagree. But I won’t elaborate because this isn’t the place. I’m sure the natives in the Sudan or Thailand or whatever would be far more grateful for food and clothing rather than religious ideals. But that’s my opinion. And my friends don’t all look like me. Although when I go to a Church I go to an Orthodox one and, strangely enough, everyone (except for a few converts) looks like me. But I go to Church to participate in the Qurbana and not to have fellowship with other people.
I hope it is not a good bye. I have been continiously thinking about you all this day
Now, I think that when we have the backing of our church and we go forth to save souls, we may still be in our Comfort Zone. It is when we are alone and the call comes to go forth that we don’t have the Comfort Zone.. We are very lonely at this point. Ridicule and not support can be expected from all.
Don’t you find it strange that Thomas the Apostle said to the other disciples ‘…let us go and die with him (Yeshua)….’ but later after the ascension we read in the Acts of Thomas that he told Yeshua ‘Do not sent me to the Indians, sent me anywhere but not to the Indians……’
Regarding the reverene for the saints, I am not much interested in it because I do not want this to be a wedge between me and the Jacobites/Catholics. Every Marthomite has a Jacobite or Orthodox related to him very closely. Either as first cousin or sister’s husband or neice or nephew etc.. So it is absurd to say anything in black and white. It is like the pot calling the kettle black.
We Nasranis should not have any political aims but must come under one spiritual umbrella. God has kept us reasonaly intact for a purpose. If there was no purpose then the word ‘Nasrani’ would not have popped up again after centuries of silence.
In Dr. Grant’s book ‘The Lost Tribes…’ he says that he noticed that the Nazernes would never have food with the Jews (who were there brothers) but instead would have food with their deadliest enemies the Muslims and the Jews would readily have food with their deadliest enemies the Muslims but would never have food with a Nazerene.
It is not stupid and rather chidish. They were behaving just like two brothers at home. Each quarelling with each other over some petty insignificant matter.I think the relationship of us Nasranis with the Pentecostals (even with Pentecostals of Nasrani origin) is very similar to what happened in and around Urmiah amongst the Jews and the Nazerenes.
This is why sometime ago in this forum I said that we should go back to our heritage and learn from our history. If we do not learn then we are bound to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.
John, our biggest problem is our ego. We are wrongly conditioned to believe that we are the most superior of all God’s creations.
You can check this up by travelling in a car from Toronto to Chicago or Trivandrum to Kollam along with two other Nasranis. You will note while travelling with these men that every other driver on the road is an idiot, every bridge is badly/poorly deseigned and built, every traffic signal is bad.
You are honest when you say that you go to church only for the Qurbana. Most or almost all Nasranis go only for this. But this is very wrong. We should go to Church for the fellowship. For some reasons I never saw Jews or Messainic Jews as being caring and sensitive. The other week I witnessed an great sight.
On a cold day after the Sabbath service a homeless stinking aged man came towards me and met caught my eyes. He was so repulsive and stinking that I looked and moved away. I saw the pain of rejection in his eyes which I will never ever can forget. But within moments a Messainic Jew came forward held the stinking very dirty man by his arm and took him to a near by bench and together sat and conversed. That one event changed my entire view of the Messainic Jews. A man with an exalted heritage holding hands with a dirty very stinking homeless man.
I had entirely missed thr ‘essence’ of that Sabbath service but the other had truly participated in the service.
No … not goodbye yet!
Regarding the spiritual umbrella … we are under a spiritual umbrella: we are theists -> monotheists -> Christians. That’s pretty significant. However, at the same time, we split for various reasons and due to the split we have changed in some (albeit minor) ways. For example, the Catholics (regardless of their Uniateness) have become Latinized. Even the Syro-Malankara have changed quite a bit since Mar Ivanios converted to Catholicism. The Jacobites have moved to the West Syrian liturgy and have become rather hard core in their Orthodoxy. The Mar Thomites have effectively become Protestants (with my apologies George; sorry to keep harping on this bit …), so that I perceive a cultural difference between me and my Mar Thomite cousins — a rather significant one!
For example, look at you and your interest in mission work (despite your professed reluctance which I take to be a bit of humility on your part). That is a very Western outlook, and is very likely due to the fact that you were born and raised a Mar Thomite — it is in your new blood. Abraham Malpan just wanted a little reform, but once he opened the door it started the Mar Thomite Church on a slippery slope towards Protestanthood. So that now you guys are very into missionary work, and prayer meetings, and fellowship, and all that western stuff. My uncle is rather famous in your Church for some of the work he does in this field … personally, I’ve never seen eye to eye with him. He’s just so different from my family (i.e., my paternal side which has not one shred of Mar Thomitism in it, a point of pride for me).
The Orthodox churches are very reluctant to engage in missionary work (they may engage in charity work, but not spreading the word). Their view of mission work is to start a monastery or a church somewhere and influence people indirectly. It obviously has won little converts to Orthodoxy, but the Orthodox don’t care.
Anyways the point is, I don’t think that it’s possible to unify our people any more than just saying we’re all Christians. Any closer, and we’ll have to tear down our differences … and it will be a difficult thing to convince Orthodox and Catholic people to do that, especially.
And … regarding Nasrani’s … I’ve driven in cars with many people, Nasrani and not, and we all enjoy the fun of disparaging shoddy (or good!) bridge work, other drivers, etc. It’s part of the fun of the *fellowship* that comes with driving in a car! Hey, I guess that means I get my fellowship in the car…
Ref. your letter to me, when I mentioned about Sudan/New York, I did not mention anything about ‘free food/handouts’ as you presumed. That was the strong view I earlier had until I realized that Yeshua did not come to earth to feed us but for the singular purpose of saving our souls. My blind but logical (I don’t know how these two can mix) view is that soul saving is the most important thing in this world and not feeding the hungry. I can understand you well where you are now today because I was there yesterday.
If you are a Marthomite, I suggest you go beyond the Marthoma Church and search for truth, if you are an Orthodox, then go beyond the Orthodox Church and do likewise.
I have all along been aware of this and that is why I have been trying to go back to my root faith ‘The Nasrani circa 33AD’. All our earthly churches have limitations and you seems to know this well. Even “Nasrani 33AD” had serious limitations as we read in the NT.
We are tired and confused but we are promised help and comfort and that is from the ‘Holy Spirit’. Some know Him to be real person.
We Nasranis are not giving sufficient importance to the Holy Spirit. We shy away from having much to do with the Spirit. Another major fault is us. We brand those who talk about the spirit as ‘Pentecostals’. We have effectively thrown the baby out with the bath water. There is much wrong in our Nasrani mindset.
I often wonder if the Jews are familiar with the person ‘Holy Spirit’ as we Christians are familiar?
As you, I was also very proud of being a “Orthodox Mar Thoma Syrian Christian’ until last Sunday until my freind about 20 years younger told me that the most important thing is whether I am born again?
I have handled this ‘Born Again’ business upteen times in discussions with Orthodox and Pentecostals etc.. but this last Sunday at my 50th year I realized that this is the basic qualification needed and that to be a Nasrani/Marthomite is a far far second.
John! You can not dismiss this as all Western things because Yeshua himself needed this as a precondition to all things. The concept of ‘Born Again’ is particularly true to us Nasranis, much much over the Protestants or Latin Catholics because we pay too much importance to our birth as previlaged Christians. Your valuable comments please.
I don’t know how valuable my comments are … but I’ll give them to you.
1. It’s a matter of speculation as to what the faith circa 33 AD was. All we really know for sure is what we have documentation for, and that starts far after that. I suppose you can use the NT as a basis to re-construct how things were — but parts (if not all) of the NT were written after 33 AD as well.
2. George, our concepts of spirituality are different. There really isn’t much I can say, because at this point none of us will be able to convince the other. (Far from it! If historical facts can’t stop you labeling the Mar Thomite Church as “Orthodox” then my personal comments can do nothing! One key different between the Mar Thomite and the Orthodox: we Orthodox believe our Qurbana to be a re-sacrifice of Jesus, and not a re-enactment. The Protestants and the Mar Thomites view it as a memorial. This is why the Protestants and Mar Thomites have a looser view of the Qurbana host and wine, giving it less reverence as us Orthodox. This is a huge difference, and by itself is enough to justify the label of “heretic” that the Orthodox and Catholics apply to the Mar Thomites and other Protestants. I know in “ecumenical India” the Mar Thomites are often viewed as a sister Church; however, that is only due to the common genetic ancestry of our communities. In the inner circles of the Churches there is no ecumenism: there is absolutely no intercommunion between the two.)
But I’ll tell you this. I was never proud of my being an Orthodox Syrian Christian due to my membership in this community. Actually, I see nothing that makes our community any different or more noble than any other. Every community has a history. It’s sort of like those idiotic matrimonials in Kerala where someone claims to hail from an “ancient family” — what does that mean? How can one family be any more ancient than another? We all come from the same ape, who came from the same fish, who came from the same primordial slime that God created via his biochemical reactions a few million/billion years ago! Similarly, every community, even the so-called “backwards people” have a story to tell. I don’t believe I’m better than a Pentecostal, and I certainly don’t think that the Orthodox community is better than any other community.
However, I am very confident in my religion. Why? Because I understand Orthodox spirituality. I’m not claiming to be a spiritual person … but I’ve been a student of the works of Mar Isaac of Nineveh, and Mar James of Serugh, and Mar Ephrem. I’ve studied the liturgy, and I understand what type of spirituality it implies. So I accept Orthodoxy wholeheartedly as my religion. Is it what St. Thomas preached? No … none of the Apostles really have any direct, provable connection to what came afterwards. But I don’t know what St. Thomas preached. All I know is what the second and third and fourth hand accounts by my Orthodox fathers say — that is written. And I trust my fathers, far more than some 19th century businessman (ever notice that all these Protestant cults were started by some snake-oil saleman in either the US or the UK?). Why? Because the 19th century man is coming 1800 years after the fact, and is from an entirely different culture. There is *no* way that he has greater access to the teachings of Jesus than a 2nd or 4th century monk in the heart of Mesopotamia speaking the language of Christ. This alone for me is a strong indictment against Abraham Malpan or the Pentecostals! How audacious of them to claim that they understand Christ more than the fathers who saw Christ or the Apostles.
But… I know that my reasons can not be your reasons — we have a very different upbringing. Just by virtue of the fact that you are Mar Thomite makes you very different from me — our exposure to things, the bias given to us by our parents, etc. I know this because I know my Mar Thomite cousins … apart from some familial love that I have for them, I don’t have any real connection to them because our cultures are vastly different. We can not converse on a spiritual level because our innards are made differently. It is a West vs. East issue — I subscribe fully to Eastern Christianity, and I admit no Western Christian influences — and certainly none of the innovations made in Europe during the last few centuries (Protestantism, and its spawn). But this is not due to bigotry. It is because when I look at Western Spirituality through the lens of my Eastern teachings, I find it alien, and hollow, and different. And the same for many of Orthodox and Eastern Catholics, at least those of us who know our faith.
But I agree with one thing you said: we pay too much importance to our birth as previlaged Christians. In fact, I see the Nasrani concept of privilage as rather absurd… our ancestors didn’t contribute to our faith, being recipients of whatever the Nestorians, Catholics, Jacobites gave us. It was only in the last 300 years than anything scholarly came out of Kerala. At least, anything novel that was worth preserving. And for our ancestors to give their books to the Portuguese to burn is unforgivable. For a martial community, we were a bunch of wimps. And that stigma will remain with our community forever — or at least under something good is uncovered by archeologists …!
By the way George, I have a question: most of Nasrani history is written from the perspective of the North which was under Latin domination. But how about the South and inland Kerala? There are ancient pre-Portuguese Churches in those districts … why is there no history on those? Did they just accept what the Northerners did? This is something that ought to be investigated…
Thanks very much for your comment. I really value it. You give a different perspective to certain things. Thanks!
Be assured that I am not against the Orthodox or Jacoba or the RC Churches. I am comfortable with all. It is not because I don’t have a backbone and a personality of my own, but because I have matured as a person. As one becomes older he sees things differently.
I read from the web that the greatest missionaries were the Nestorians/Orthodox Church of the East who went far into China and Mongolia spreading Christianity and I presume all this was done without political backing from home in Persia. So are you right when you say that missionary work is not part of our heritage? Was not our hero St. Thomas himself a very daring missionary?
Christianity can not be inward looking, it has to be outward looking. We have to welcome the lowcastes, the westerners and all others into our fold. But when we convert them, then make sure that we intermarry with them (if the couple is otherwise compatible). If we refuse to marry them, then we will be doing a great sin. I write this because there are several cases where Syrian Christians have converted non Nasranis but then refused to marry them. In these cases, it would have been better if no convertion was ever done.
Will later comment further.
I am quoting a piece of information that has been supporting my interest in my Nasrani Heritage. This was originally lifted from a poster,
The Mythical African Sankofa bird represents the idea of returning to the past and learning from it.
Africans believed that it was wise to learn from the experience of the past in order to make the future better’
Check in Google/Wikipedia for more about Sankofa. I think the Sankofa will be a good ‘mascot’ for us Nasranis.
I can walk with you many miles. However, do not be too sure that the 2nd Century Nasrani/similar can know more about the mind/heart of Yahoweh than a western monk of the 17th Century.
I read somewhere in the Bible that Yahoweh gave Christ to the gentiles so that the Jews can be put to shame. This means that the gentile Christians can reach a higher level in spirituality than the Jews themselves (you must include the Jewish Christians here with the Jews). There are certainly giant Western Christtans whose contribution to Christianity has been very great. We have to admit this.
Your feeling is to a large extend shared by my belief that ‘The Story of Yeshua must be told through the eyes of a Jew’. When one watches Christian TV channels, we are certainly giving an extra ear to those preachers who are of Jewish origin. I notice that it is not just me who give this extra ear but almost all the TV viewers. There seems to be something very authentic and geniune when a Jew preaches about Yeshua.
I always find stories of Jews converted to Christianity very interesting (actually I was scolded by a Persian Jewess Christian at our last Sabbath service for using the word ‘convertion’ for a Jew to become a follower of Yeshua. According to her, Jews do not convert. I was pleasantly suprised to hear this because earlier I and some others in our forum also used the same reasoning We said that in the year 52AD the Malabari Jews did not convert but only accepted the long awaited Messaaih.
I hate to argue but … regarding the word convert many people hate that word due to the stigmatism that is attached to it (it implies that someone *changed* from one to another; implying mental weakness, or at least the weakness of the minds of one’s ancestors). This was a stumbling block for me, as I felt it hard to acknowledge that my ancestors *converted* from Hinduism/Buddhism/Judaism/Manichaeism to Christianity, and then from Nestorianism to Jacobitism. But it is a fact that I must swallow — and so must all descendants of converts swallow. (However, at least *I* am not a convert 😉 !).
Now, a Jew who accepts Christianity is a convert. Christianity may be descended from Judaism, but Christianity and Judaism are most certainly *not* equal (go and ask any Orthodox Rabbi; forget the Messianic Jews — they are considered outcasts and heretics by the Jews). Jews do convert when they become Christians as Christ is not even viewed as a Prophet by the Jews! (The Muslims at least view Jesus as a Prophet and afford him respect for that reason). Go and read the works of Maimonides (the Jewish philosopher) and his polemics against Christians and Christ. I will tell you know that there is not one Muslim who knows of his own religion that would ever say such vile things about Christ — not one. They may insult us, but that is because they feel we follow a distortion; however, they will never insult Christ. Moreover, once a Jew becomes a Christian their theology changes — if they believe that Christ was divine. I’m sure your Persian Jewess friend is a proud person, as she should be: the Jews in Iran were tough people maintaining a very old strain of their religion. But once she accepted Christ she became a convert–pure and simple. And the same with the Malabari Jews who may have converted to Christianity.
I’m not sure which Western Christians you are speaking of that made great contributions to Christianity (if it is Augustine or worse, Martin Luther, you’ll get another argument from me!). I accept and respect the saints of Western Christianity (Catholicism); however, I can’t think of one Western teacher past 600 AD who made a substantial contribution to Orthodox Christianity.
Finally, I don’t know whether a 2nd century man knows more about the spiritual aspects of Christianity than a 17th century man: that’s a tough call because we can’t perceive another man’s mind, no less his soul/spirit. BUT I do know that a 2nd century man has a greater chance of knowing more about the historical Christ than a 3rd, 4th, … 17th, 21st century man. It just stands to reason! Documents that don’t exist now existed then. People who don’t exist now (who knew Christ) existed then. They only thing that exists now that did not exist then were the various distortions of our faith! Sorry, but Martin Luther and his spawn were deluded innovators who created a new religion based on a limited set of texts that were themselves translations and modifications of the originals. There is no way that I could, as a logical, rational man, accept their words over the words of my fathers who were around way back when Christ and his Apostles were around.
To be clear: it offends me when I meet a Protestant Christian who claims to be able to teach me about Christianity. Perhaps he may be a better person than I — there is no doubt that I’ve met Protestants and Pentecostals who are more “righteous” than I. *HOWEVER* there is no way, no chance, not one iota of a possibility, that he, with his modern texts, with his modern teachers, with his one-liner soundbites from the Bible, can teach me more than what I can learn from the texts of the doctors of my religion who were around 1400 to 1900 years ago.
I fully undertand the time and energy you spend writing. Thanks a lot.
I will call myself a ‘Hebrew’ but a orthodox Jew may laugh at it. Why should I care of what the Jew or an Anthropologist may call me. I am who I believe I am. I may become a social misfit. But are not all truths misfits?
A distant cousin of mine in Houston had to battle it out with the ‘Namboothiri Syrian Christians’ there. He wrote a simple article where he said that the Malabari Jews did not convert. This was some years ago. Just keeping you informed that you and me are not the only ones addressing this matter. I believe I put him intouch with Amprayil Achayan. He is not a scholar and most important does not profess to be one and I find him simple and practical. If I can get my hands on that article/letter I will sent it over to you.
Also you had mentioned about a few Orthodox writers of the early centuries who had influenced you. I wish to read those books. Are they available in English? In my times of distress, I had also called upon my dead and gone paternal grandfather to intervene on my behalf and somehow convince Yeshua to get me a Job/money/health etc.. I had done it in the past and may do it also in the future. I have done so because I trust that grandfather loves me very much and that I am sure he is with Yeshua. So I can relate much with your version of ‘Orthodox faith’ but may not be all.
I also know that Yeshua loves me a trillion times more than my grandfather but sometimes my faith in Yeshua falls because I am human and weak. Does this statement or confession I just made confuse you are does it ‘make sense’?
Now regarding giants in Western Christianity, well you should be knowing a dozen or more. My favorite is Abraham Lincoln. I have always commented that his ‘Gettysburg Address’ should be included in our Bible. Some wil call it heresy but I don’t care. Yet another would be ‘William Booth’ the founder of ‘The Salvation Army’, there are many many more.
You are mistaken when you hint that I consider Martim Luther as my hero. I am unable to ever understand him because of his writing and talkings about the Jews. The writings are terrible and I can put a very high percentage of the 6million Jews killed in the holocaust squarely upon Martin Lurther. Actually he does not exist in my thoughts at all, not even .0000001%. But for your additional information, please know that the American Lutheren Association apologised to the Jews for Martin Lurthers terrible wrongs/attitude/behavior. I don’t think it is in me to ever forgive for such titanic wrongs. It strongly seems beyond human. But I know that the Jews must forgive.
You have now come close to guessing why I am interested in my First Century Nasrani/Hebrew heritage.
“Why Thomas Came to India.
Let us forget the Evolutionary idea and grasp an important truth about these ancient people. They were more intelligent and hard working people than we are and they knew exactly what they were doing!
Could some one answer these questions?”…
The Author has justified himself, but if someone can answer the following questions, it would be enlightening the darker side of my brain and clear some misconceptions regarding the apostle’s arrival to the most prejudiced inhabitants of India – Kerala!
Had St Thomas been buried in Mylapore the Christians in South India would have thronged to his tomb from 1st century onward. This had never happened till 16th century when the Portuguese made it important. The Syrian Christians of Malankara realized the importance of Mylapore only after the Portuguese constructed a church in the 16th century AD. How can such place of importance remain unknown to the traditional St. Thomas Christians from the 1st century AD? If Syrian Christians can remember the names of converted Namboothiri families with names and specific areas in first century, why couldn’t they trace St. Thomas from AD 64 and his subsequent martyrdom.
From 64 to 72 AD. St Thomas was in Mylapore. History does not speak of any traditional Christians from Mylapore claiming their origin from St.Thomas time, nor thiruvalluvur had any mention of St. Thomas either. History says they were in the same era and area. If St. Thomas has done these many conversions and constructed 7.5 churches in 12 years, why he was idle in Tamilnadu?
Another remarkable question is unlike Kerala why did brahmins of Mylapore weren’t converted? I am not sure if such a post will remain in this server.
request an educated answer.
Speaking for myself and some of my freinds, we have to say that the ‘traditions/beliefs’ of St.Thomas in Mylapore is not strong. St. Thomas may have been buried in Mylapore but no body is really sure.
You mentioned a few times that Muslims revere Christian saints. They may do so by lip service but not in reality. Why are there millions of Christians fleeing muslim countries, the Syrians, Coptics, Ethopian Orthodox etc… Stories of Tipu Sultan persecuting Christians are plenty. Forget Persia, Syria, Egypt etc. look at our own Malabar. What happened to the Nasranis who were persecuted by Tipu? Today their names are ‘Abdulla’, Rashid etc…. Is this paying respect to Nasrani Saints?
A great truth you and me must learn is that anybody can talk and write whatever they like and then do what ever they like. Hitler banned the works of a musician but in his private and personal collections had plenty of the musicisans collections. Our Indian politicians scream about banning English from India, yet all their children are sent to ‘Convents’.
Christian Saint bashing is happening in India but not so in Canada. This is what I am told by a Pentecostal in Canada. No Luthern or Anglican bashes St. Mary but I do agree that ‘Chacko Pastor’ loves to bash St. Mary or St. George inside India or in the Arabian Gulf. He gets a kick out of this.
Reformation is not the sole property of ‘Martin Luther’. The OT and the NT screams constantly about Reformation. This is not to say that the Marthoma Church is good because she is Reformed. Reformation is a continious process. Until about 18 years ago those who commited suicide were buried in the ‘Rascals Pit’ by the Marthomites and I presume by other ‘noble’ churches. The Church was very insensitive to pain and that was why this happened. Today that great and mighty evil has changed. A ‘suicided’ person is buried beside his or her parents/spouce/children.
I will be away from my computer for some days but I will be back. Hope to be in touch with you. My email address is georgemathew58athotmail.com.
I thought you were John.
The Christians in Mylapore may have ceased to exist just the same way as Christians in North India. There are some records that say that during the later centuries the ‘remains’ of St. Thomas was removed from Mylapore and taken to the Middle East and that it lies buried somewhere in Edessa I think.
Don’t be too fast in believing the Brahmin convertions. Some may have taken place but it is today far too overstated.
Nothing is strong George. Again you come up with a lame mallu agenda, that they ceased to exist like North India. I have heaps of logical supports to say that St. Thomas was not burried in Mylapore, and it would be offending to many that he never came to India. I have been to Malayatoor church couple of times and the Apostle’s foot depicted at the lower end of the church always amazed me. It was something of a man of atleast of the size of 12ft. The Cathedral of Ortona where the relics of St. Thomas were shifted from Edessa in 1144 AD bear testimony of a silver bust of St. Thomas which contained his skull which bear the size of a normal human being.
Thomas Mount at Mylapore bears a white dove on the top, six petals facing downwards and six petals facing upwards at the bottom of the cross signifying light world (petals facing upwards), and dark world (petals facing downwards). These are evidences that this cross is not the one used by St Thomas. Moreover the writings on the cross are in Pahlavi language (Persian), which is neither the language spoken by St. Thomas nor the local language (Tamil)
So if St. Thomas could build up a vast empire of Christians in kerala with in 12 years, why he couldn’t he do any thing substantial in 8 years in Mylapore? These are simple questions no Theologians want to answer.
About me, I am a strict follower of Jesus but not its corrupt institutions and leaders. Also I live in a very free country where episodes like “bloody marry” can be aired with no barriers.
It is very strange that the ‘Acts of Thomas’ do not make reference to St. Thomas, though some claim it does I have tried to locate the reference in the ‘Acts of Thomas’ but have failed.
I have the following first hand experience about legends.
About 20 years ago in Perumade in the plantation district of Idukki in Kerala, I made about a 9″ deep 1.5″ dia. hole into a large rock beside a natural pool. The pool was really in a wilderness and dangerous. I had made the hole to put in a steel rod towards making s simple bridge to cross a dangerous stream.
This pool was about 80years prior to making of the hole visited by Rev. Baker’s daughter who was simply called Madame. It is legend that she used to swim there. All those in Kottayam will know Rev. Baker. He was a big person with the CMS in the late 1800s and perhaps in the very early 1900s.
After some years of being away from the pool, I was suprised to later hear from the locals that the hole was made by ‘Madame’ to make a bridge. This legend still continues and this has made me not to accept easily anything claimed historical . This happened just a few years ago and so how unreliable would ‘facts’ be of things claimed to have happened 2000 years ago. I am only saying that one should be very careful of what one believes. Legends are often not factual. As stated by BG, some/many of the St. Thomas legends may not have any historical authenticity.
BGs observation that he is a strict follower of Yeshua suprises me. Do you love your enemy? Our earthly spiritual leadership is a reflection of our own community’s spiritual life. If our bishops and priests are bad it is because we are bad.
I too do like to share a small memory, which is very old. From the early childhood I always had an instinct to question institutions which looked odd for me. For that reason I accumulated many enemies during my course of growth. Except mosques I had access to Hindu and Christian establishments. As a child i would wonder about how some one could splash hot “prasadam” on ones back without any pain. I could never accept that the man is empowered by the spiritual state and the heat of prasadam wont hamper his skin cells. The simple fact is that the “Kathir” or pookola once dipped and taken out, loose most of the heat.
Another instance is that before purchasing our land in(ages ago) many have told as that there was a namboodiri pond in our land and during night “mada and marda” used to come there for bath. There were witnesses for this, murmuring the stories of fire balls moving along – mada and marda are always depicted in fire postures. But the simple fact is that some times small amount of phosphor ignites in the atmosphere by itself and invokes an illusion of moving fire.
I never believe legends or old folks or one who blindly believe faith with out any substantial education of forward thinking. Surprised to know that there are still such categories hanging in our century where science has grown to such an extend that….. we all know!
The essence of knowledge is ‘BALANCE’. Sceince herself is tricky. She will highly mislead us.
Do not blindly trust science. She will betray. Do not trust legends. Desire wisdom which comes from Yahoweh. A man who has wisdom has scars all over his body. It is those who have a heavy exposure of life that brings out words of wisdom.
It is a paradox but true that the greatest teacher is ‘failure’. We have to put our heads and hearts together and get a better/improved picture of our Nasrani heritage. I am happy with what we already have. But we need more of our heritage. Hope you love our heritage.
In this pragmatic world, our heritage makes sence to me. A church needs two things. One is Fellowship and the other is Witnessing. Heritage will fall under Fellowship. We can not stay at point ‘Heritage/Fellowship’ for too long. We have to disperse/spreadout and Witness and then come back again for Fellowship and recharge batteries. Do you agree?
I sometimes become philosophical, don’t I? A colleauge once told me that I was a philosopher. Funny!! but I am not, I think.
Anyway, on your posting on 16th Feb you mentioned that you went from Nestorian to Jacobite. Ofcourse your mean your forefathers. I think it is neccessary that one should know what is meant by Nestorianism by you?
Ofcourse, I know that usual definition of Nestorianism meaning that Yeshua was on the one hand God/divine and on the other hand human. This unique comming together of two natures into one personality was first forwarded by Nestorius.
But in certain places, I don’t get to see the above definition. At times it appears that Nestorianism means the group that do not venerate St. Mary, the mother of Yeshua but at other times I notice that churches that venerate St. Mary the mother of Yeshua are also called Nestorians.
What do you think was your faith before the Portugeese came to India?
I just used Nestorian as a label for the Church of the East (I know they reject the term, but the fact remains that’s what everyone used to call them and it’s much easier to type). And yes, I meant that my ancestors must have gone from the Church of the East to the Syriac Orthodox faith (according to the available evidence).
By the way, although the Nestorians reject the term Mary the Mother of God (Theotokos) due to their Christological position, that does not mean they do not venerate St. Mary. In matters of practice, the Nestorians were very similar to the Orthodox, especially with regard to the saints and Saint Mary: they venerated them, asked their intercessions, etc.
Some old-time writers, misunderstanding the Church of the East, call them the “Protestants of Asia” just because they didn’t call St. Mary the Mother of God (like the Catholics/Orthodox) … but in reality they were no such thing! That would be like calling the Orthodox Church a “Protestant” one just because we don’t use statues in our worship.
So yes, the Church of the East (wrongly called Nestorian … although, Nestorius is probably wrongly called a Nestorian!) uses the label “Mother of Christ” rather than “Mother of God”. This is nothing revolutionary, however. They are not doing it as offense or as a reduction of St. Mary’s status. They use this label to be consistent with their Christological position. However, they do venerate St. Mary just as ardently as us Orthodox/Catholics.
Before the Port’s came to India … I guess my ancestors were of the Church of the East — that’s where the bulk of the evidence lies. But like Bar ‘Ebroyo (the great Catholicos of the East), I don’t find the divisions between the Catholics/Eastern Orthodox, the Church of the East, nor the Oriental Orthodox to be significant: it was all a bunch of philosophical post-Christ post-Apostolic musing anyways…
With all respect and for the desire to know/learn, may I ask you as to how the ‘Nestorian’ characters in Dr. A.. Grants book ‘The Nestorians or the Lost Tribes’ would fit into the ‘Nestorians and the great ‘Church of the East’ that you mentioned above.
The Nestorians in the book were also called ‘Nazereans and were part of the very ancient church. Their spiritul head during 1840s was their ‘Patriarch of the East’. The American Protestants were interested in the Nestorians because of the uniquenes of the Nestorian faith which they claimed was similar to their Protestant faith.
Where are those Nestorians that Dr. Asahel Grant met and lived with?
Did their unique faith survive or was Dr.Asahel Grant /some other important person mistaken in accessment of their faith?
John, I want you to read the book. It is on the web and if free.
I made a major error in my earlier comment. The church has 3 duties,
Earlier, I totally ignored the most important thing ‘Worship’.
Sure I’ll read this right after I finish my dissertation…
The Church of the East was attractive to the Protestants, I suppose, because from the outside and amidst a sea of “idolatrous” Orthodox/Catholics and “heathen” Muslims and downright weird Mandeans/Mazdeans/etc, they must have looked interesting since:
a) from what I know, their altars are sparse
b) they don’t use icons in their church
c) they look like rebels with their use of the term “Christotokos” as opposed to “Theotokos” — as if to say they are opposed to veneration of Mary.
And at the time the CoE was very vulnerable — think of it, the biggest Church of Christendom, responsible for peacefully bringing their religion not via the sword or deception (like the Catholics and Protestants) as far as we know, reduced to a bunch of hillbillies in the Mesopotamia. It’s sad, George, what happened to ’em (but I think it’s partially their fault: mismanagement was rife in that Church, with hereditary succession leading to the schism of the Chaldeans; with the hierarchy introducing political mods to appease the Persians, etc). And the Protestants probably wanted to “help” them because of this vulnerability: they made easy prey!
But I’ll go read the book, George, since you like it so much…
You seem interesting. As BG would perhaps say ‘You are odd for a Mallu!’ Please may I ask ‘Who are you?
I think it is important to explore your mind so that one can understand the ‘Nasrani Heritage’ better.
Regarding your accessment that I come from a ‘strong Marthoma background’, you are right. But my sister is Orthodox (by arranged marraige) and many cousins too. So I can relate with you well.
I saw depth of personality in you when you said ‘Will I trust Western Christians or my forefathers when it comes to knowing what is Christian history’.
In this connection, I may add the old saying ‘… History is always written by the victor…’. You have indeed moved me and I do not know by howmuch. I am now kind of thinking differently. Hope it is not because I am fickle minded or am I?
I really wanted to know how others think and I got that from you.
Well, you know, I don’t think you’re fickle, I think we’re having a good debate (i.e., you’ve brought up strong points and I think I’ve brought up at least one or two good points too).
I wanted to mention three things:
1. Since I couldn’t read the Grant book (at least not yet), I checked out a work that referred to it. In it, the author mentioned that Grant’s (and the other Protestant missionaries’) haphazard approach to “uplifting” the Nestorians resulted in a quarter of them getting massacred by the Kurds. Not that there is an excuse for those barbarous bastards killing innocents, but basically, Grant’s methods made the Nestorians look suspicious in the eyes of their neighbours … and so they killed a whole bunch of them (50,000 I think). I forget the book I checked this in … I google’d it — so I don’t know if this is 100% gospel truth.
2. I must have mistyped something: what I meant was that I trust my forefathers (i.e., the Syriac fathers) over the Western Protestants in understanding what the real Christ was like (and hence what Christianity should be like) for reasons of historical and cultural proximity.
3. Take a look (if you have time) at the works of St. Isaac of Nineveh. He was a “Nestorian” but, interestingly, is held to be a saint by the Orthodox and Catholics (who hold the Nestorians to be heretics!). His work is the work of a 7th or 8th century eastern Syriac Christian who had such ecumenical scope, disinterested in dogmatic matters, and rather in issues of the Holy Spirit. I though it would be relevant to you for obvious reasons. It might also broaden our common ground which has become slightly wider from the admittedly narrow precipice it used to be!
Thanks for the encouragement in the form of comments. I will be away for one month as I am going on my vacation to India. See you all after that.
Keep good health by positive comments.
I too read that Grant and Co. were naive and this led to a large slaughter of the Nazereans.
I have warned a few Nasranis that if we establish that we are of Hebrew origin and that we originally came from the Middle East down through the centuries, then local ‘fanatics will tell us ‘Go back to Israel or Syria’. Others will lock us by our own admission.
Sometimes, all that is needed is a small spark and in the right conditions things can go aflame.
News! We now have a key person in the ‘NSC’ declared a J2. He is Ampravil Kuruvilla Achayan. We do not know as yet whether he is ‘Indian J2’ or ‘Semetic J2’ or ‘Hebrew J2’. We will know as soon as more people do the test. But the news is encouraging and it suspiciously points again to a Hebrew heritage than to a Namboothiri one.
Remember that only about 5.8% of Indian population is J2 and that is more on the Indo Pak border/North India.
St Thomas did come to India… Now internet article are shedding new light into this topic… For a while some Christians in Kerala too were made to believe that it was not the apostle, but another merchant Thomas of Canaan who visited Kerala and spread Christianity. Now we all know this is not case.
I wrote an article almost 10 years ago which can be read at
I agree with you that Western Theologians want to downplay ‘Indian St. Thoma Christianity’ just the same way Western Archealogists refused to accept the fact the Harrappa and Mohenjadaro were Indian.
There is now a BBC programme in Canada titled ‘Around the World in 80 Journeys’. It may be appearing in India too!
In this documentary the travellor visits Cochin and the only thing he has to say is that in the ancient times the Phoenicians, the Egyptians etc. visited Cochin for trade. Not a single mention was made about the Jewish traders in the early years.
Then as a passing reference he says about Jewish traders who migrated to Cochin in the 17th Century AD and who did trade.
Why this ommission of Jewish traders? or is it my imagination?
The result of Dr. Kuruvilla is J2 for Y-DNA (paternal) and R for mt-DNA (maternal). J2 is not an Indian haplogroup and is exclusively Semitic haplogroup in origin. If it is found rarely in India among High caste Hindus or Muslims, so it indicates Central Asian/Middle-eastern ancestry and Iran the origin/seat of Aryan religion or Vedism is a Middle-eastern country and hence there is bound to be shared genes.
But the J2 of Dr. Kuruvilla may not well be Indian/Aryan for few reasons- His J2 is having close matching results to other middle-eastern matching J2 results in the project. And the markers of J2 in Indians and those of West asians is very distinct. There is nothing known as J2 of Indian origin though J2 is rarely found in North Indians and Aryan Indian (~ 5-8%). But in our community it is very high (~35%) which is characteristically found in any given Jewish population among Semites. Jews also have ~30%
J2 haplogroups. So the frequency also speaks and the sub-type of J2 is also important. But this will be confirmed further as more samples pour in.
Another reason is, his paternal result must be studied combined with his maternal haplogroup result which is R. R type of mt-DNA is near-eastern in origin. So both J2 (paternal) and R (maternal) results combined might possibly not indicate a local Indian origin.
I am very glad that you have come into our midst. Thanks!! Presume that you had a look at our DNA data base. From your above comment, you imply that you have studied Syrian Christian DNAs. Have you done any study on the ‘Malabar Jew’ DNA (not the Jews who came to Malabar at about the 17th Century also called as the white Jews or Foreign/Paradesi Jews but the much earlier ‘Black Jews or Local Jews’.
We have tried contacting certain authorites in this matter but have no developments. DNAs are an important matter and should be pursued in full. Just so that we do not loose you, please would you let us have your contact details. You may give it to the Admin or to me at ‘georgemathew58AThotmail.com.
From where did you get the figure that the Surianis are 35% J2. Do you think I should also do a ‘maternal DNA test?’. YOu will see me in the Suriani list as ‘George Palasseril’.
For those interested in cutting-edge DNA research as a window into Jewish origins, see:
The difference between my paternal DNA and my distant paternal side relatives DNA can be explained because I had done only 12 marker tests. He must be my 8th cousin or so, there are 11 markers similar and 1 different.
Yesterday, I met an Irish lady who was a Catholic but out of her love for Jewish Christianity and for the Jewish people, she is today a Messainic Jew. I have not seen very few so full of love for Jewishness. She does not have one drop of Jewish blood in her. I am fully convinced that if I am to consider the Jewish HIgh Priest of Jerusalem as Jew, I must also consider her to be Jewish also. Because her heart is totally Jewish.
This meeting with her came at the right time for me. I am still holding onto the belief that the Knanites may not have any impressive Jewish DNAs to show (the last word is yet to be said), yet they are Jewish because they have consistantly said they are Jewish, so in the spiritual way, they are Jewish, atleast partially.
Let us go to the extend of showing that they are biologically not Jewish, but let us not say that they are not spiritually Jewish.
My above reasoning is odd, but I have a long dead freind in the elite Jewish Rabbis group who said in the Talmud ‘…if a woman who is pregnant considers a man to be the father of the child in her womb, even if he is not the real father, then such a man is the real father of the child…’. Veru powerful saying. Perhaps the most powerful statement I have heard/read. Only a person with deep spirituality can understand that it is always mind over matter I am so happy to have stumbled over this saying in the Talmud for it substantiates my core belief. Jewish or Hebrew heritage is not in the DNA but in the heart.
If Judaism is about DNAs, then it is not worth a nickle.
A few days ago, I had mentioned when discussing about the possibility of ‘L Hapalog amongst the Jews that those Jews having L Hapalog would have been wiped out during the second destruction of the Temple.
I had stated that 100,000 Jews would have been killed/massacred at this time. But I was far from the truth. Josephus, states as follows (Ref. Wikipedia ‘First Jewish-Roman War’,
Josephus claims that 1,100,000 people were killed during the siege, of which a majority were Jewish. 97,000 were captured and enslaved. Many fled to areas around the Mediterranean.
The Romans hunted down and slaughtered entire clans, such as descendants of the House of David. On one occasion, Titus condemned 2,500 Jews to fight with wild beasts in the amphitheatre of Caesarea in celebration of his brother Domitian’s birthday.
The K’nites list shows that one of them match with a Lebanese person. Can you possibly give an explanation for this matching?
Since we have been also discussing on matters like the ancient Israelites and Hebrews, their physical features, anthropology, comparisons with other middle-easterners and nations around I felt it really compelling to provide the following website which gives a clear picture of the ancient people.
It is basically a compilation work from various historical and archaeological findings, paintings, manuscripts, images, rabbinical texts, etc.. titled :
“THE PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY OF
THE HEBREW PEOPLES”
by Yair Davidiy
Also do check the link provided in the same, “Pictures of Ancient Israelites” which is another “library” in itself of information and images/pictures. Do check the website and the contents atleast once which is an excellent work by the scholars.
http://www.britam.org/HebrewTypes.html (for the picture collection)
I guess the above site is useful in comparative studies since physical anthropology is another important aspect of community studies. We could have a string of discussion from the same.
Kosher wine and Nasranis (particularly reference to the Mar Thomites)
At the last supper our Lord gave wine to his disciples and we today continue with this Sacrament.
In all probability the Lord gave ‘Kosher Wine’ which is wine made under Jewish law/traditions.
When St. Thomas came to Malabar, he would have also given Kosher Wine to the Jews there who were now followers of the ‘Way’. Either he would have bought some with him or the Jews would have had stock of it – imported from the Middle East or Persia.
Practically speaking, tiny Marthomite churches, as in Calgary get their wine from vendors (who may be non-commercial enterprises or otherwise). I am not even hinting that these wine purchased from them are ‘unsuitable’ but only saying that since Kosher Wine is freely available in Calgary, New York, Brisbane etc. which have Jewish population, then why not have Kosher Wine. Is this not from the perspective of traditions and heritage better?
After all, the Lord in Jerusalem and St. Thomas in Malabar used Kosher Wine.
All I am saying is that first preference should be given to Kosher Wine and if it is unavailable, then other reliable source of obtaining must be made. If Kosher Wine can be made by Achen at home, then nothing like it. Whereever and whenever possible, let us stick to traditions as far as possible.
On Kosher wine to be used at the Qurbana or the Eucharist/Blessing…….
Well we may use Kosher (meaning ‘Halal’ or ‘allowed’; opposite is ‘Haram’ or ‘non-Kosher’ or ‘forbidden’). But before that tell us (or me) one thing whether we use Kosher or non-kosher wine, isn’t it spiritually irrelevant ? How ?
The wine after the blessing turns into the very sanctifying Blood of Yeshua, the Paschal Lamb. So it’s the greatest miracle happening on the altar and in our lives. So after it is made the blood of Christ by the Holy Spirit (Ruah ha’Kodesh), does it still matter whether it is Kosher Blood or non-Kosher Blood of Christ ? Is there anything like this then ? And that Blood which sanctifies and purifies even the most darkest crimson sin of any believing man, does that blood still need to be of Kosher origin wine ! Again I’m speaking on the spiritual part which is greater than the ritualistic part of any tradition be it Jewish or Gentile in origin.
I don’t feel the Kosher laws hold true here because Christ himself is the sanctifier and the origin here, who is beyond Kosher and non-Kosher and all such human traditions !
(Other food aspects are another thing)
Very important point. I full agree that from the spiritual angle, it does not matter whether it is Kosher or not. Period.
Some will say that the wine actually turns to blood of Christ, some say it is symbolic. I am comfortable with both. But personally I envy the faith and traditions of those who believet that the wine actually turns into the blood of Christ.
By the way, I subsequently learn that Kosher Wine eg. Magan David and others can not be prepared by our Achens at home. Kosher begins at the field/vineyard.
It is from a perspective, terrible to come under the Kosher Laws. Our hands and feet are all tied and we are needed to compete in this rat world. I wonder how the Orthodox Jews can even survive for a day. I heard about a very educated Jew who will not ON lights on Saturday.
Try to enter the mind of St. Thomas, Did he use Kosher Wine or not? My recommendation is to stick to traditions as far as possible. The present Pope has a wonderful definition for ‘traditions’. I forgot his quote, I have been trying to get my hands on that quote. The quote relates good tradtions with the ‘Holy Spirit’.
Above all things, Yeshuas statement ‘Man was made for Sabbath, not Sabbath for man’ must be the guiding light.
I know you are gathering proofs/supports of our Jewish heritage. Well, here is one more,
Go to last half of Page 204, under the chapter ‘Christianity in India’. In this chapter there is an observation made by ‘Cosmas’ (while in Malabar, because reference is made to pepper) as to how Persian Christians in Malabar slaughtered oxes by it’s throat being cut (and blood let out – Jewish style) rather than be bludgeoned to death (gentile style).
The book is written by ‘Dale T. Irvin and Scott N. Sunquist’ and titled ‘History of World Christian Movement’.
I asked a tamil girl working in my department about “tokei”. She said that “tokei” mean “mayil peeli” in malayalam.
Somebody listened to my request about “tokei” and clarified!
Thank you very much Mathew George.
So it proves that “tokei” has at least something to do with a “mayil”.
Are there any records exist in Malabar about Chinese mission of Apostle Thomas ? There are many inscriptions written in Syriac find in Sian from seventh century.
is there any written documents suggesting the nasranis as the lost tribe of israel??
“The Nasranis of Malabar, India are of Hebrew or Israelite heritage but not much is known of their past, making it difficult to be certain that they are also descended from the ‘Lost Tribes’. (Ref. Dr. Asahel Grant’s ‘The Nestorians or the Lost Tribes of Israel’ for more about the Nazarenes and Nestorians”
one more thing..National geographic channel conducts a DNA analysis in their genom project??
it is reasonable to believe that we the nasranis have a paternal lineage to hebrews..do u think in BC 700 or in AD 70 after the destruction of the temple when the jews scattered they landed in musiris??But what i doubt is weather there were ladies among the sailors??? was it feasible to take family in a voyage like that or for buisiness purpose???what i was thinking is the hebrews came and married with the locals-of course they might have got warm welcome from the local rulers…pls clarify..
(Ignore this if this is a repeat entry). I had posted one a little while ago but am unsure if it went through.
I wish to bring you the following DNA results obtained through National Geographic’s Genographic Project in March 2008.
Name: Cyril Abraham/House name: Thathamkulam/From: Neezhoor, Kottayam (Knananite)
Y-chromosome confirms that I belong to : Haplogroup J2 (M172)
An accompanying note states:
The M172 marker defines a major subset of haplogroup J, which arose from the M89 lineage. It is found today in North Africa, the Middle East, and southern Europe. In southern Italy it occurs at frequencies of 20%; in southern Spain 10% of the population carries this marker. Both haplogroup J and its subgroup J2 are found at a combined frequency of around 30% amongst Jewish individuals.
Re my genetic journey, the report reads:
Your ancestors left a physical footprint that matches their genetic journey. Artifacts from ancient towns such as Jericho, also known as Tell el-Sultan, a site close to present day Jerusalem, provide evidence of permanent human settlements to around 8500 BC. The sites also suggest the transition from hunder-gatherer to settled life occurred relatively suddenly.
(A map provided with the report traces the start of the journey from mid-eastern part of Africa, with the title “Eurasian Adam: 31,000-79,000 years ago”)
Feel free to use my data if it can be meaningful for your insightful discussions and evaluations.
To answer your question: no, there are no written records that suggest what you asked. Our oldest historical records indicate a connection with the Persian side of the East Syriac Church — who were definitely *not* Jews.
If you’re using Asahel Grant’s work as a reference, you’ll be in for disappointment. The man was not a scholar, and even fellow British Protestants had scathing indictments of the limited intellectual capacity of that man (similar to Claudius Buchanan in India).
Go and read “Nestorians and Their Rituals” for more.
I am no Bible scholar or scholar of history. But could someone explain the following.
Given below are the English, Jewish (Hebrew) and Malayalam names of Bible personalities:
English – Hebrew – Malayalam
Job – Iyyob – Yob
Joshua – Yehoshua – Yoshua
Samuel – Shemuel – Shemuel
Isaiah – Yeshayahu – Yeshayavu
Ezekiel – Yehesqel – Ehezqel
Jonah – Yonah – Yona
Simon – Shimon – Shimon
John – Y’hochanan – Yohannan
Matthew – Mattithyahu – Mathai
James – Ya’aqov – Yakovu
Jesus – Yehoshua – Yeshu
Now my question: If Christianity came to India with the British, how come malayalees preferred to follow Hewbrew pronounciation of biblical names?
It is only the illiterate BJP/RSS people of North India, who say that British brought Christianity to India because they have only seen the SC/ST/OBC converts and they were all converted by the British.
jmj. our christianity is ancient. our nasrani came out from jewish diaspora. exactly israelites heritage like people may include from different tribes. and some of the brahimns converted. and many nestorian group came before suryanis were persians and they mixed with indians and the few brahimns and persians joined made their way to say all nasrani means huge brahimns converted. because hindu and persians also have the same orgin. then later suryanis came from syria. and they also brought new church culture and widely accepted among us and it was filled with beautiful chants and that is the jacobite and sub group of knanayas and more denomination orginated. Then all these herigage as syrian christian community of today
Have a look at what the British missionary John M Barton Had to say about the Syrians in travancore ( Mavelikarra) original Work was published in 1872.
JMJ, please do some research instead of believing in this British myth. Yes, there is Orthodoxy in India and it does surprise people because India is Hindu in majority. Most Indians don’t know about our ancient community or ever heard of it, so I guess no one should blame you for not knowing. They just see us as normal Indian people who are Christian, which is a good thing because we are Indians no matter how much mixing went on to form our community over the thousands of years. Jews were the first converts to Christianity in every part of the world, it shouldn’t be a big surprise. The disciples traveled to many countries to preach the Gospel first among the Jews and then to the locals. Paul’s letters that he wrote were to cities where there were large populations of Jews. I should know because I took a few courses in Christianity.
Comment on Joseph George’s Nasrani origin column
Thanks for your labour in explaining complexities of Nasarani origin in Kerala for fellow Nasaranis that includes me (belonging to Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church whose Head resides in Devaloka Aramana, Kottayam).
There are however, omissions that deserve attention.
I. There is an important book in German on this you seem not aware of, titled –
“Die Syrischen Christen Indiens”, edited with his own contribution among others by Fr. Paul Varghese (later the late Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios, Principal, Orthodox Theological Seminary, Kottayam, of recognised international renown, one of world’s best New Testament scholars then & Metropolitan of Delhi Diocese, ┼ Dec. 1996)
The book contains scholarly articles by top experts of various Syrian churches (Syrian-orthodox, Syro-catholic – Syro-malabar, Syro-malankara, Knanaya etc.). It is a “must read” for all Nasranis and answers many questions and clears many illusions and misunderstandings as well. The article by Fr. Paul Varghese even narrates amusing details of St. Thomas landing in Kerala and post-arrival events. Bishop Gregorios had studied the original “Thomas Acts” at British Museum, London. TA, as you know, is the oldest available record of Thomas Indian Christianity dated around 2-3 cent. A.D., if my memory is correct.
One can’t be blamed for not knowing this because it is in German. The book is available at Vienna’s Pro Oriente Library. If you can organise funds from world Nasranis to have this book translated into English from German, I am prepared to take up the job. I studied philosophy in Germany and am bilingual (I write both in English & German; these days more in English as I am a UN-correspondent in Vienna, but now on long health leave). If there is genuine interest, pl. let me know, I can contact the publisher to know the price for translation.
II. Dr. Paulos Mar Gregorios in a lecture at Madras once stated that the original religion in Kerala was not Hinduism, but Buddhism. As a scholar he must have known what he was talking about. You may want to contact Rev. Fr. Prof. Dr. K. M. George, the current Principal of Orthodox Theological Seminary, Kottayam, to ascertain the details on it, because the personal library and all documents of Dr. PMG had been bequeathed to the Seminary. It seems the Hindu Brahmins among the listeners were supposedly upset to hear that Hinduism with its Brahmanism set its foot in Kerala only in the 5th or 6th century! If this be true, then the story of St. Thomas converting Namboodiri Brahmins into Christians is self-effulgent hogwash.
I hope these suggestions will help you a bit if you are planning eventually to write a monograph on this subject.
George Chakko, UN-correspondent in Vienna (Austria), on health leave
Anyone can explain me how the myth of Parasurama was mentioned in the vedic texts (in sanskrit) if he was a settler in the late 8th century??
Sorry my question was wrong i meant to ask in which hindu texts parshurama mentioned and what was the time period it got composed.anyone..
I feel that the church in general and Jesus in particular had a strong affinity towards the east. If you read the Nag Hammadi findings of what are loosely called the gnostic gospels there seems to be a strong Buddhist orientation to the whole discourse with the constant reminder to seek salvation within one self. This is akin to the Budhhist philosophy of finding the world within yourself through deep meditative practices and control of one’s mind. There is enough written ( though nebulous) out there to link Jesus with India including Notovitch’s claim to texts at hermes and lhasa. Thats why Christianity went east long before it was taken west. That probably explains why Thomas went east in search of the jews to bring them back to the ‘way’ that Jesus was propagating. I dont think Jesus himself was keen to spin off another religion. I think he was more keen to bring the wayward Jews back to the fold. Thats why he seems to send his disciples to go largely where prior popultions of jews are known. In the gospel of philip there is a reference to the term nazarene being the revealed form of the hidden name i.e the revealed form of the name Jesus. I am reasonably certain that the root of the word nazarene comes from nazar or nazara or sight. in urdu ahl-e-nazar are people with sight or people who understand and who have insight. If those who did buy Jesus’s theory then they may have been called Nazarene’s or those who see (the right way).
Hence clearly the antiquity of those people can be assumed even as far away as malabar because Thomas would have come to explain to them and show them the way. The Tabula Peutingerana shouws Muziris as an establised port of roman times so people would have existed here including large / substantive jewish trading populations.
Dear George Sir,
I have seen most of the comments ON THIS BLOG related to BIBLE,VARIOUS DENOMINATIONS OF CHURCHES,JEWS,GENETIC ANALYSIS etc etc.But no one has quoted about the character of the ancient kerala invasions and migration theories.I would like to add in,Was the ancient religion of kerala buddhism??? I totally agree with your view point that india was a a buddist country totally buddhisized, your claims I will clarify here.Before the christian era there only existed 3 “major” religions Vedic,The Vedic Literature consists of theSamhitas, (the Rig, Yajur,Sama and Atharva veda).Brahmanas, Aranyakas, ‘Upanishads. It includes the Vedangas, Sutras, and Upavedas,Buddhim and Jainism in India(please don’t mix VEDISM (Brahmanism)with modern hinduism as hinduism has developed gradually since ages) .All not confined to the southern part of india. Mauryan emperors has introduced buddhism into the southern india, Buddhist missions of Asoka. Among thecountries referred to are Coḷa, Pāṇḍya, and Sri Lanka. This inscription was written in 258 B.C.One must not believe that the inhabitants of kerala till that date was not like the modern hinduism…Saivism was a part of the Dravidian empires then with local faiths taking a lead,one must remember the Dravidian kings had great devotion to the ancestors ,ancestor worshipping was a ritual.Hinduism or later aryans theory for convincing or marketing their own religions has taken Vedism+Buddhism(+Pantheism+Jainism+Local deities+Dravidian deities(Siva+Muruga+amman+Bhakti movement) etc etc even we can see an ALLAH UPANISHAD that was composed at later muslim era to accommodate even islam into the hindu fold.These were done to just accumulate all the theories of all in one and market their religions to the kings to dominate on all.Buddism and Jainism failed.Later Modern Hindusim with a mixture of all was been implemented or has absorbed all faiths to form a new religion .Even archeological evidences states that Krissna temples were found first in india only at 2nd century A.D, Hinduism is different from other religions because it never had a dominant dogma, nor an absolute truth which stands as a sole explanation of the universe. Indian thought kept and accommodated all and every belief, and rare were the periods of intolerance in India. The early pre-Aryan cults continue to be practiced to this day without being persecuted, and India has welcomed many foreigners, allowing them the freedom of their beliefs.Hinduism encompasses all the tendencies of human thought, from atheism to planet-worship, through a great many dogmas and beliefs. In this context, God cannot have only one name and one form. The choice of what is the “Truth” is left to the individual, and it is up to him to choose the divine name and form he wants to worship in his heart.All these beliefs influenced each other from earliest times. Even the Rig Veda contains verses showing a certain knowledge of pre-Aryan myths. The gods were assimilated into each other to such an extent thatit is extremely difficult today to retrace India’s history of religions.The only thing we can say with certitude is that from the Indus Valley civilization and throughout history, from the north to the south, from
the east to the west, races and ideas mixed with each other, despite the fact that the society was formed of castes, tribes and peoples who managed to keep their own identities.You need to study the development of hindusim for this aspect with patience.
But the question is what is brahminism ,even the sanyasis/bhikshuks of buddhism were referred to brahmins ex. Ājīvika brahmins but dont know which race they belong to ARYANS/DRAVIDIANS/SCYTHIAN????What actually . Is the present day CASTE “brahminism in olden times reffered to only the “Aryan” preistly classes or to “any” priestly class before Aryans really made varnas when they became a dominant class and to prove their higher status heirarchially?? Even the “PISHARODY “sect from were Buddhist pundits but later on accommodated into the current hindu caste hierarchy as AMBALAVASI OR PUSHPAKA BRAHMINS
History of Kerala of that period was only in the form of the SANGAM age referances and poems as even kerala was a part of TAMILAKAM.The tamilakam references aryan migration theories can be explained through the sangam age poems and literature’Sangam Age’,which extends roughly between 300 B.C and 300A.D. Three sangamas are supposed to have beenheld – Chola, Pandya and Chera. Your claim about the namboodiris in kerala ,the word “seers” appears in tolkappiyam the ancient tamil grammer referring an Aryan pandit( a brahmana) which can be refered to a namboodiri as all malayalees call Brahmans a namboothiri ,yes all Brahmans are not namboodiris they settled later ,this terminology must have developed afterwards while the namboothiri migration, everyones theory of St.Thomas visiting india to bring back the jews can be a reason but it even does not state that no others were converted or Aryans did not invade or migrate into kerala.It is even a debated point whether CHANAKYA was from Kerala.Many Brahmin (Aryan pundits) might have visited as they were given special priviliges by the Dravidian kings as they visted the south for debates with budhism & jainism to establish their own faiths and rituals.
I have lot on this topic were there Aryan pundits before the aryanization (namboodiri settlements),but has a limited space.Post you later on.
If some reason brahimns were there, st thomas more likely to convert brahimn. because the dark ages in kerala other indigeous people were so uncivilized.
if he came from such a jewish and roman places, he should not missed brahimns there. as st thomas think brahimns are the people in malabar.
Brahimns among st thomas christians
I think there are more clues for these, Many families know where there patrneal sides came from regardless of investigations.
among ancient jews and arabs christians it may hard to find weather someone is arab decendents or jewish decendents.
as long as fatherside keep track of their histories actually it cannot be miss it orgin, that i was confused a while ago.
i think there was BRAHIMN CHRISTIANS become nasranis and their were so devoted to eso as they found about iso messiah and his power from St thomas
They composed many classical song and strict life being christian such as morning prayer, bath and vegetarianism but they brought some rituals.
eventually when those brahimn converted families brought brides from middleastern immigrants their orginality began to change.
there are middleastern group mixed among the brahmin converts as northist and middleastern immigrant marry other women like brahimn.
the middleastern immigrants who did not joined northist become southist. but i m not pointing out knanayas.
so persians migrated to malabar also the central asians mostly nestorians and brahimns now comes as northist and others are west asians.
but what happened whichever northist familiy mingled with middleastern immgrants are patrneally brahimns but autosome testing middleastern such as features and culture compare to brahimns
Yes it is so,but here all the “modern scholars” debate on the basis of broken proofs ,as such in olden days people only used palm leaves and perishable proofs to document their history,truth is more a mystery and we have to believe even in the oral traditions, each oral tradittions cannot be a myth or moreover an exaggeration .Many people only has the tendency to take the kings reference or datum to refer to a cast of olden times..Ex kushans defeated the sakas (Scythian kings) so most say only kushan kings race was been found while kushan’s rule (whatever they might be)is no worth,and where the local population of scythians have might been migrated they think of ,after their kings defeat???? Even it does not say after invasions the kings killed the whole existing populations,They might have mixed or might have been degraded in the new kingdom(maybe),its all about the acceptance of the people of the new kingdom.I have also heard about a Bengali king to the rajputs (near rajasthan) ,that doesn’t make the kingdom bengali nor it makes the king a rajput.
I have gone through many of the comments people trying to “establish” a jewish heritage only,there were many jewish converted to Christian in Malabar (I am not saying about the knas) ,but that does not emphasise claims that “only” jewish people got converted.Even the “Aryan Pandits” (I will not use the word namboothiri as all will come with the later migration theories of namboodiri) were converted by St.Thomas.Even the buddist monks were sent to the TAMILAKAM from the Mauryan empire.So even the early buddist monks were not Dravidians,it is the Aryans.
Even I have seen non Christians saying that there were no namboothiris at that time so all St.Thomas Christianity is a fairy tale.Hence most of the people here gave least resistence and just tried to agree to thefact that all are now” Jewish converts”…as the prior is resisted with the namboothiri migration theories ,Also ,we can listen about an olden day usage of the word” Naanaar” by non Christians to denote the St.Thomas Nasranis which simply means “people from different castes in union”.
There was an the Aryan priestly privileged class long before the namboothiri migration one cannot deny.
It is like asking a question ??To which all parts of the country malayalees did migrate ??
The answer will be Delhi,Mumbai,Bangalore,Pune,Chennai, Kolkata…..Mass migration.
But do anyone know that even there are malayalee families in Satara,Kolhapur,Raigad (just giving an example) etc etc but not in a greater extent ,even they don’t have places for worship in these areas as the community is too small.
Later after 200 years no one will even know that even malayalee people lived in Satara,Kolhapur n in minor quantities.
But for cities like Mumbai ,Pune etc yes thay can trace their existence as there may be no of churches or temples and even more people for a proof.Think.
According to Sangam era literary works the Dravidian society was classified into
1.Arivars(non threaded priestly Dravidians).
2.Ulavars/Vellalars/Karalar . or farmers.-Zamindars some local kings
3.Aiyaar or Veduuvar-The shepherds and huntsmen
5.Padaichiar-military armed men.
6.Valayar/pulayar-Fishermen & scavengers.
The first attempt of varna implementation by
Tolkappiyan “a Brahman(thread wearing)” in 1st to 2nd cent B.C mentions the VARNA system as per the Aryans
1.The “threaded pandits Brahmans” were described and not describing the “arivars” or “sages”.
2.The kings Chera,Chola,Pandya and did not mention them as warriors but kings to the second.He also doesnot describe that the kings nor the vaishyas wore the sacred thread.
3.Also Vellalas the cultivators were refered as cultivators not the sudras.Also he states that the ones who are kings should be given the second status as kings. (Some vallalas were local chieftains )
4.The later even he doesnot mention as per the dravidian social heirarchy.(might have found no importance).
This was the first attempt Varna system was tried by a brahman in south as per records n the 2nd to 1st century B.C . THEN HOW COME THE “NO BRAHMAN N CHERA DYNASTY RELEVANT”
When varna …”Introduction-Impressiveness(on kings)-Implementation-execution (it did not happen overnight ,may be it took 2-3 centuries gradually) AND THE FINAL WAS THE NAMBOOTHIRI migration theories.It solidified and credits were to the last solidifiers..the namboothiris.
Please don’t mis understand that my analysis is just to prove the Brahman origins to the nasrani community ….It is a mixed one.
As per Dr Mini Kariappa ..the chitpavans( i know a lot of them from ratnagiri or the konkan areas and have mistaken them to be malayalees,many are my friends and even my senior is a chitpavan ) many now have even accepted islam and has a parallel hindu relatives too,the namboodiris,the syrians have a common ancestory to jews as stated by Dr.Mini Kariappa …
Evidental history has been lost to the Nasranis and many did join the faith at later ages even “before the varna system” …and did marry many “St.Thomas baptized christians” as their was no strictness to the “Varna consciousness” and christian faith did teach about “union”.Many native Dravidian converts (AIVARS -the priestly dravisians),Jews,Aryan priests,Kings were been converted.Each family will have different origins and later on intermixture with each other the pure origins of ones family faded away.
if we look at yes i totally agree different families mixed as jewish syrians and brahimns.
dravidians converts actually came in to christianity from syrian missionaries.
i m not saying that st thomas did not converted but he cannot be miss brahimns as our history and many family histories point out to.
but the mistery which people reject brahimns because compare to brahimns, there were more immigrants refuge to malabar and lived a safe christian life.(persian or middleastern)
in the mist of all groups reached to malabar, then the brahimns highlits seems to faded. there were more struggle to maintain their idenitiy.
it not the matter that we proud to be hindu brahim supermacy but there are acturally converted from st tomas and those are the luckest among the world and they were so innocent and passioned to their new faith.
the middleastern people began to be in malabar and established their suryani and everybody accepted but in the mist of all the earliest brahimn and jewish converts and their lifestyles become less important.
presence of brahimns faith the jewish even influenced and adopted those family name through marriages. hence it comes like a new breed and yes we feel like that being nasranis.
but in ancient past they were pure brahimn groups as christians.
that why now days many familiy history says brahimn and aboard many may see them as middleastern or these brahimns orgin people also having a muslim blood. syrian assyrian mixture.
Again i want to point out, which something i understood recently, that each family has its history
and many family braches are comming from brahimn convertes.
that does not mean that today only patrneal decendents of brahimn may not are brahimn like instead those people featured different because of different admixture
family names like korah, kuruvilla joseph chandy and so on if they have the family history that is NOT brahimns , it just cosmetically added on some centuries
those family names know they re possibily from greek jewish armenian syrian or assyrian.
again those people cannot be match up with brahimn assumptions instead those induvidual know thier orgin.
but these families women can be a wife of brahimn converts or those middleastern families took brahimn or indian orgin wifes in past centuries hence lot of genitic mixture.
if we are being brahimn orgin and feeling syrian or some muslim blood on us because of admixture even if father father ogin in brahimn.
if brahimn orgin men know their orgin as brahimn, those decendents can be more artistics. indian artistic ablities, classical music that something that absent in middleastern decendent families.
but at the most we believe st thomas found us and we are being nasrani.
hence those families know they are jewish decendents by father side, they know that.
Dear Mr. Joseph,
Thank you for sharing this article with us. It is insightful and well written. Keep up the good work. From my readings, I understand that “Nazarene” is a term that refers to: (1) People from Nazareth; (many people from the belt that extends fromTurkey to the Indian sub-continent include their native place in their names even today. For example, the Late Saddam Hussein was Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti, Tikrit being his home town; and (2) In Jewish tradition, the vow of Nazarene, is the highest order of mendicants who live in the deserts and ate and drank what they could find. Samson, John the Baptist and Jesus were mendicants of this order. John the Baptist initiated Jesus into the vow of Nazarene through baptism. So Nazarenes are an orthodox sect of Judaism. Nazarenes had to follow all the rules prescribed by Yahweh through Moses and many other practices that govern life, celibacy, prayer, food habits and dressing. Jesus was referred to as Nazarene as he was from Nazareth and he had taken the vow of Nazarene.
In my opinion, Jesus had never intended to form a new religion called Christianity. He only pointed out the hypocrisy that was prevalent in Judaism at that time. He wanted to bring Judaism back on track to its purest form as presribed by Yahweh through Moses. Until the day of his death Jesus followed all the Jewish traditions and practices. After Jesus’ cricifixion and the destruction of the temple, Jews were forced to flee from their homeland and they escaped to places like North Africa, Persia, Mesopotamia and India (made familiar by trade routes).
A new book “Spice & Kosher – Exotic Cuisine of the Cochin Jews”, jointly written by Dr. Essie Sassoon of Ashkelon, Israel, Bala Menon and Kenny Salem (both of Toronto) is now available worldwide through Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and other online retailers.
These are the links:
The book contains about 200 recipes from the Kerala Jews – some of them unique to the Jews but many are common with the Syrian Christian, Hindu and Muslim communities among whom they lived in old Cochin. The book also has fascinating insights into Cochin’s Jewish history – the community dates back to more than 2500 years, according to their oral traditions, when the sailors of King Solomon’s fleets reached the Malabar coast in search of spices, apes and peacocks.
ISBN Number – 978-0-9919157-0-5
Hi, I am looking for recordings of Nasrani chants from OMAN. Can anyone help? Many thanks
Have a look at the Sunday Toronto Star, the largest newspaper in Canada.. There is a 1 1/2 page feature in the Insight Section about our Cochin Jewish research.
Hebrew Jews are not Nazranis. Nazranees are not from the town of Nazreth. May be the people from from Nazran/Najran in Saudi Arabia before the advent of Islam may be called Nazranis. Nasrani and christiani are not one and the same. Suryani and Christiani may be one and the same now. The beliefs, faith and the life of Nazranis are completely different. Nazranis are not religious first of all. They are an irreligious group of people. The person who died on the cross is a Nazrani. The person who died on the cross may not be called Yeshu. Aesus had been there for hundreds of years. So then who are the Nazranis?
Nazrani means one who shows the way, the life, the light and the truth. Their mother tongue is Treveri. They are highly scientific people, agriculturists, astrologists and physicists who had the cure for even leprosy and comatose in those days. They were excellent weavers and embalmers..They are of Europen descent. and physically they are different from the Jews. One of the physical features worth mentioning is that they had only 30 tooth with 2 missing molars. They are strongly associated with Harranians and the Vedic Hindus. They also spoke Aramaic and Greek along with Latin, Sanskrit and knew at least one dravidian language, may be Tamil. Abraham was an Harranian. He was neither a Jew nor a Christain. Arbraham was a Nazareen. He was not even married because Nazranis do not marry. There was not even a settlement by the name of Nazareth towards the begining of 1st century CE.
So please do not use the name of Nazrani in your website and discussions associating with jews, christians or Muslims.
If you have 2 missing molars and a declivity please let me know. There are 30 more physical features for a Nazrani. Once you confirm this we shall establish the faith of the Nazranis.
Today there is not even a single Nazrani alive in this world and know the faith, everybody were terminated systamatically.
This is an excerpt from my on going book.
You people waste your time. None of you can speak the Estrangalo Aramaic, never even heard of it, yet arrogate yourself the assumption that you are Jewiish Christian followers of Christ.in India. One bunch of better moronic fools I can’t think of either. Most of you are united with Catholic Rome and its liturgy, compromised every bit of old Syrian liturgy
I say, Shame on you. Because you are wanting to be “white”.
We Malankara Orthodox Christians stick to the very old St. James liturgy (Jakobian Liturgy) of the first century, of the first Yerusalam Christian Community, in the eighth revised version, to this very day. St Thomas brought it along with him, as he belonged to this community after Yeshu Mshiha’s Ascension.
Since you Catholics don’t have it, you seek third rate excuses to acclaim originality of your apparently Jewish “white ” origin.
We Old Indian Orthodox Christians don’t do that, have no need for it
Dear George chacko,
I read your comments wating for other suggestions on it.if nobody means those who searching for originality,replying I will do it later.
But remember rome not following a real suriyani liturgy,likes latin liturgy.
If you belongs to any religion group,you will get what you deserve in life.
Wasting the time for seeking origianality is worthless.
Please learn about a real suriyani christian life style,not by looking such kind of people searching for origin
A nazrani friend
I agree with jinoy . Seeking ‘originality’ is a waste of time and not worth it . Its lifestyle that make you a christian .Be strong and have faith and you shall reap the rewards .
As for what george has said everyone know the SMC and Malankara Orthodox and all other syrian christian groups share same history prior to coonen cross oath .so what we follow right now doesnt matter at all .
and fyi we started using st james liturgy only by 17th century .
A new book by scholars Dr. Kenneth Robbins of New York and Rabbi Marvin Tokayer titled “Western Jews in India” has just been published…Dr. Robbins’ book is the first of its kind describing the role of Western Jews in South Asian politics, medicine, art, architecture and religion and is part of an 8-volume project on Indian Jews, including the military history of the Bene Israelis, Holocaust refugees and Jews in Bollywood.
One of my articles on the Jews of Cochin has appeared in the December 2013 issue of Jewish Magazine, the largest and the oldest independent Jewish resource guide on the Internet. Read it here: http://www.jewishmag.com/180mag/jews_cochin/jews_cochin.htm
Reading your article on the subject I observe many historians forget the socio political situation in seleucid Syria and Judea in late 2nd century BCE. There was war and large scale fleeing of the country as we see now.
The Essene sect entirely vanished from the scene during this period. They were last seen at Pella as observed by Josuphus. One may note that there was another Pella near Persian Gulf other than the one we normally know near Demascus.
My theory is that the earliest migrants to kerala were none other than the essenes.
They were vegetarians, did sun worship like the Hindu “soorya namaskar” and took bath several times of the day. Very namboothiri like…
Look forward to my book “Yavanapriya-The story of Armaic Malabari”
My name is Thomas as I know from my family book seven generation of my ancestors name were Mathew or Thomas only, with refference to my grandpa who is 100 years old in 2019 has a bright memmory of they never had pork meat and always do Holy saturday not sunday. With the same refference we were merchants and our foot prints and Nose shapes are same to Middle Easterners.so I hardly try to find the reason then I end up in this article. Who ever wrote this article is blessed by holyspirit and ofcourse reach a peak of truth. We may mixed with great Indian culture but still our genes are seeking Jerusalem. Still my heart is proud when I hear Aramic prayers and national anthem of Israel( ofcourse pounding while I Hear Indian ) God the Lord of Israel bless you the Author may he gives you all the prosperity and peace. Very thanks for this article. My name is Thomas Mathew Kurisinkal our family from Bharanganam and Kuravilangaad . Migrated to Mountains of Kannur. Now Settled in Middle East
It is one of the most interesting articles on Nasaranis christians. I’m looking for a newest issue of the NSC newsletter.
Your analysis with an unbiased approach of the possibilities that St Thomas is good work. To find more evidence which is still their and we not searching and not looking in right places is worrying.
I think we should start analysing Hindu temple records, and speak to custodians of chetta and Pandora history, as well Muslim records to find evidence.
Another possibility is to find evidence in the rivers and seas after great flood of the 14th century which displaced the landmass.
Anyway great work, I feel some in today Indian culture including Shashi the good seems to be on the marathon path to discreet Kerala history. Shameful
Yavanapriya- The story of black pepper and Aramaic Malabari.
YAVANAPRIYA is the story of BLACK PEPPER and its voyage to the orgies of the Roman elite. Also, it is the story of Aramaic speaking Malabari of ancient Kerala whose 6.5 million strong descendants thrive in every part of the world now.
The story imbibes adventures, exploration and open sea voyages along the rim of Arabian sea and Red sea bridging the land masses between the east and the west. It unveils several layers of churn of events between 116 and 63 BCE. It is an historical fiction where imaginary characters get entwined with true history.
It is the story of black pepper becoming the favorites of the Roman palate, enriching abundantly the Keralaputhras, the Aramaic Malabari, the Jews, The Nabateans, The Parthians and finally the Roman merchants.
It is also the story of Buddhism travelling to the near east influencing the thinkers of Athens and Alexandria, and at the same time introducing the therapeutic values of various Indian herbs including black pepper. It peeps into the shrouded history of the Essenes of Ein Gedi, who lived on the shores of the Dead sea, playing the role of a catalyst in bringing east and west together.
And finally, it is the story of Yona, a twelve-year-old boy, destined to become an Essene monk to fulfil a prophecy on him, instead becoming the savior of his community.
This book is available on amazon .com as ebook for 5.99USD and 12.99USD for paperback.
In India ebook is available on amazon kindle for Rs.434.