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Syriac Christianity is an ancient near Eastern Christian group represented by denominations primarily in the Middle East and in Keralamarker, Indiamarker. Particularly notable is the liturgical use of ancient Syriac, a dialect related to the Aramaic of Jesus.


Syriac Christian heritage is transmitted through the Syriac language, a dialect of Aramaic. Unlike the Greek Christian culture, Syriac culture borrowed much from early Rabbinic Judaism and Mesopotamian culture. Whereas Latin and Greekmarker Christian cultures became protected by the Roman and Byzantine empires respectively, Syriac Christianity often found itself marginalised and persecuted. Antiochmarker was the political capital of this culture, and was the seat of the patriarchs of the church. However, Antioch was heavily Hellenized, and the Mesopotamian cities of Edessamarker, Nisibismarker and Ctesiphonmarker became Syriac cultural centres. Undoubtedly, Syrian Christians of India are amongst the oldest Christians on our globe.

The early literature of Syriac Christianity include the Diatessaron of Tatian (most probably), the Curetonian Gospels and the Syriac Sinaiticus, the Peshitta Bible, the Doctrine of Addai and the writings of Aphrahat and the hymns of Ephrem the Syrian.

The first division between Syriac Christians occurred in the 5th century, following the Council of Ephesus in 431, when Christians of the Sassanid Persian Empire were separated from those in the west over the Nestorian Schism. This split owed just as much to the politics of the day as it did to theological orthodoxy. Ctesiphonmarker, which was at the time the Sassanid capital, became the capital of the Church of the East.

After the Council of Chalcedon in 451, many Syriac Christians within the Roman Empire rebelled against its decisions. The Patriarchate of Antioch was then divided between a Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedonian communion. The Chalcedonians were often labelled 'Melkites' (Emperor's Party), while their opponents were labelled as Monophysites (those who believe in the one rather than two natures of Christ) and Jacobite (after Jacob Baradaeus). The Maronite Church found itself caught between the two, but claims to have always remained faithful to the Catholic Church and in communion with the bishop of Rome, the Pope.

Over time, some groups within each of these branches have entered into communion with the Roman Catholic Church, becoming Eastern Catholic Churches. The Mar Thoma Church is in full communion with the Anglican Communion.

Some Syriac Christian denominations no longer use the Syriac language in their worship. This is particularly true of the Chalcedonian churches.

Churches of the Syriac tradition

Syriac Christians were involved in the mission to Indiamarker, and many of the ancient churches of India are in communion with their Syriac cousins. These Indian Christians are known as Saint Thomas Christians.

In modern times, various Protestant denominations began to send representatives among the Syriac peoples. As a result, several Protestant groups, including the "Assyrian Pentecostal Church" have been established. However, such groups are not normally classified among those Eastern Churches to which the term "Syriac Christianity" is traditionally applied.

See also


  1. Allen C. Myers, ed (1987). "Aramaic". The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans. p. 72. ISBN 0-8028-2402-1. "It is generally agreed that Aramaic was the common language of Palestine in the first century A.D. Jesus and his disciples spoke the Galilean dialect, which was distinguished from that of Jerusalem (Matt. 26:73).". Israeli scholars have established that Hebrew was also in popular use. Most Jewish teaching from the first century is recorded in Hebrew.


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