Sacrificing Truth on the Altar of the denominational Fanaticism
Chaldean web site Denies the Assyrian Identity of the Contemporary Assyrians
by William Warda. September 14, 2009.
Some members of the Chaldean church, recently have embarked on rewriting history to claim their church name as their ethnic identity by not only denying their own Assyrian identity also that of others. They do so by misrepresenting known historical facts. An article written in Arabic by a Gorgees Mrdoa published on a Chaldean church web site is one of such examples. With the help of the Goggle Translate I was able to have it translated into English. It is titled: Chaldeans and Assyrians between right and wrong; advocates of the Assyrian contemporaries are the remnants of the ancient Assyrians or are they nobody?
Mrdoa begins by trying to prove the extinction of the ancient Assyrians, so that he can conclude that it is not possible for the Assyrians of today to claim descendence from the ancient Assyrians. He cites (Sidney Smith/ 1925) who wrote that "The disappearance of the Assyrian people will always remain a unique and striking phenomenon in ancient history. …No other land seems to have been sacked and pillaged so completely as was Assyria." Mrdoa also quotes partially Dr. Simo Parpola, of University of Helsinki who agrees that “some of the great cities of Assyria were utterly destroyed and looted... but Parpola believes that Assyrians continued to exist after their defeat. He writes; “However, Assyria was a vast and densely populated country, and outside the few destroyed urban centers life went on as usual. This is proved by a recently discovered post-imperial archive from the Assyrian provincial capital Dur-Katlimmu, on the Chabur river, which contains business documents drawn up in Assyrian cuneiform more than a decade after the fall of Nineveh.” See: Parpola Simo, “Assyrians after Assyria”
Prominent Assyriologist , H.W.F. Saggs, the author of several books about history of Mesopotamia, including 'The Greatness that was Babylon" does not believe that Assyrians were defeated into extinction. He wrote: "The destruction of the Assyrian empire did not wipe out its population. They were predominantly peasant farmers, and since Assyria contains some of the best wheat land in the Near East, descendants of the Assyrian peasants would, as opportunity permitted, build new villages over the old cities and carry on with agricultural life, remembering traditions of the former cities. After seven or eight centuries and various vicissitudes, these people became Christians."
H.W.F. Saggs, "The Might that Was Assyria" p. 290.
If we accept Mrdoa’s premise or similar misguided opinions that Assyrians became extinct during or after their famous defeat then we should not expect any references to them as living people in later centuries, but archaeological discoveries and historical references to Assyrians in later centuries attest to their survival into christianity and up to the present time. See; Assyrians from the fall of Nineveh to present.
After being satisfied that he has proven the extinction of the ancient Assyrians during or after their defeat Mrdoa sets out to prove that Christians of Iraq whose forefathers have lived in the homeland of the ancient assyrians since the fall of Nineveh are descendants of the ancient Chaldeans and not Assyrians. He claims that Chaldean prisoners of war were brought to Assyria before the fall of the Assyrian empire and the region was ruled by the Chaldeans after 612 B.C. .
Mrdoa does not explain how was it possible that in the heat of battle all Assyrian inhabitants of the besieged and destroyed cities perished but all the so-called Chaldeans survived. If there were Chaldean exiles in Assyria as Mrdoa suggests it is far more likely that most of those who survived returned to their homeland as the Jews did after the Babylon's defeat by the Persians, especially since Assyria was plundered of its wealth which was carried away to Babylon and Media. Furthermore there was no Christian community in Mesopotamia which identified itself as Chaldean before a new Church was established in 1553 which was wrongly given the name Chaldean. Mrdoa and his cohorts are confusing church affiliation with ethnic identity.
Did Chaldeans Rule Assyria?
Known historical facts contradict not only the belief that Assyrians became extinct also that Assyria after its defeat was ruled by the chaldeans. Parpola writes; “We know little of the political status of Assyria in the decades following its fall, but it seems that the western part of the Empire, as far as the Tigris, fell into the hands of the Babylonians, while the eastern Transmigration areas, including the Assyrian heartland north of Assur, came under Median rule.” Parpola Simo, “Assyrians after Assyria”
This is corroborated by the fact that when the Babylonian king Nabonaid (555-539) wished to rebuild the temple of Sin in Harran he could not do it before driving the Medes out of northern Mesopotamia which they had occupied since 610 B.C... To do this he made an alliance with the Persian king Cyrus to rise against them which led to the occupation of the median capital Ecbatana by the Persians in (550 B.C.). This allowed Nabonaid to capture Harran while the Median Army was kept busy at home. Harran was rebuilt and the foundation of the temple was laid. Olmstead Albert, "History of The Persian Empire", Chicago Press 1948
To prove the ascendancy of the chaldeans after the Assyrian defeat Mrdoa writes: "After the fall of Babylon the Achaemenid King Cyrus who brought all the region of chaldea and Chaldeans under the influence of the Persian empire, and had great knowledge about the chaldeans spoke to the Chaldean people with wisdom, saying to them, I came, to bring peace to the disorder, to remove quarrel,...... he received Chaldeans’ satisfaction and thanks for allowing the Jews to return to their homeland if they maintained the Chaldean influence they had acquired and remained part of the Persian empire while hey enjoyed their rights of independence.” In reality nowhere in his inscriptions the Persian king Cyrus mentions Chaldea or Chaldeans. I challenge Gorgees Mrdoa to produce the original English translation of King Cyrus inscription where he has made a reference to chaldea or Chaldeans.
In his "CYLINDER INSCRIPTION" Cyrus identifies himself as: " I am Cyrus, king of the world, the great king, the powerful king, king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, King of the four quarters, son of Cambyses, great king, king of Anshan......see lines 20-21 " throughout this inscription he refers only to Babylon and Babylonians and not to chaldeans. He describes his invasion of Babylon as: "I sought the welfare of the city of Babylon and all its sacred centers. Here it is: ”
The first 11 lines of the inscription describe how Nabonid had oppressed the Babylonians.
It is obvious that Mrdoa does not have first hand knowledge of king Cyrus inscriptions;
otherwise he would have noticed that 83 years after the fall of Nineveh king Cyrus mentions Assyria and indirectly attests to the existence of the Assyrians as part of his empire.
"From < . . .> to Assur and Susa, Agade, Eshnunak, Zamban, Meturnu, Deri, with the territory of the land of Qutu, the cities on the other side of the Tigris, whose sites were of ancient foundation — the gods, who resided in them, I brought back to their places, and caused them to dwell in a residence for all time. see lines 30-32. And the gods of Sumer and Akkad — whom Nabonidus, to the anger of the lord of the gods, had brought into Babylon — by the command of Marduk, the great lord, I caused them to take up their dwelling in residences that gladdened the heart. May all the gods, whom I brought into their cities pray daily before Bêl and Nabû for long life for me, and may they speak a gracious word for me and say to Marduk, my lord,... " see lines 33-36.
There would have been no reason for Cyrus to return to Assur the Assyrian gods if there were no Assyrians to worship them. In fact archaeological excavations in that city prove that the Assyrian deity Ashur was being worshiped there up to the third century AD. Furthermore a copy of the "CYLINDER INSCRIPTION" of Cyrus was found in the city of Nineveh.
Mrdoa like other history revisionists of the Chaldean church is inclined to replace all references to Babylon and Babylonians with Chaldea and Chaldeans, to pretend that Babylonians were Chaldeans and vice versa, so that he can wrongly claim that the name chaldean given to his church by the pope Julius III in 1553 means its members are descendants of the ancient Chaldeans.. it is preposterous for any religious denomination to equate the nationality of its members with a name given to it by others which previously they had not identified themselves by. There is no mention of a Christian community in Mesopotamia whose members identified themselves as Chaldean before the 16th century establishment of a new church that was given that name. Such attempts to falsify our people's history not only betrays the rest of us who do not belong to that church also misleads and deceives members of the Chaldean church by inventing a fictitious, religiously based, ethnic identity for them. Attempts by some members of the Chadean Churh to devide our people based on who goes to what church not only undermines our common Assyrian identity, makes unity and cooperation within our communty impossible, also degrades our historic rights in northern Iraq, helping the Kurds to claim the entire region as their historic homeland.
Did Assyria and Assyrians Exist as nationality during the Persian rule of Mesopotamia?
Persian monarchs who succeeded king Cyrus like him have mentioned Assyrians and Babylonians as subjects of their empire but have made no mention of the chaldeans. The Nagshe Rostam inscription by Darius (512-48) which lists the national types of the Persian Empire includes the Assyrians. A reference to them reads as:
"Iyam Asuryah", "this is an Assyrian" which is very similar to the term "Suryah" a name Christian Assyrians have identified themselves by. Sukumar Sen, "Old Persian Inscriptions of the Achaemenid Emperors," University of Calcutta 1941 p. 107
The Behistun inscription of Darius in the beginning of his rule lists 23 countries as part of his empire including: "Persis, Huza (Elam), Babiru (Babylon), Athura (Assyria)...." Josef Wiesehofer, Azizeh Azodi Trans., "Ancient Persia From 550 BC to 650 AD, I.B. Tauris Publishers, 1969. In another inscription in Susa Darius writes; "The cedar timber, this — a mountain named Lebanon — from there was brought. The Assyrian people, they brought it to Babylon; from Babylon the CArrians and the Ionians brought it to Susa. The yakâ-timber was brought from Gandara and from Carmania." Old Persian Texts: http://www.avesta.org/op/op.htm
"Proclaims Xerexes, the king: "By the favor of Ahura Mazda; these are the people/countries of which I was king of....Persia, Media, Elam, Armenia, Drangiana, parthia, Aria, Bactria, Sogdia, Choresmia, Babylonia, ASSYRIA, Stagydia, Lydia, Egypt......"Josef Wiesehofer, Azizeh Azodi Trans., "Ancient Persia From 550 BC to 650 AD, I.B. Tauris Publishers, 1969.
In a Trilingual Persepolis inscription ARTAXERXES II (c. 436 - 358 BC) OR III ( BC. to 338 BC.). among the twenty throne-bearers of various nationalities Assyrian representative is identified as; '17. This is the Assyrian'. http://www.avesta.org/op/op.htm
Did Babylonians or their Neo-Babylonian kings call themselves Chaldean?
The 11th dynasty of the Kings of Babylon (6th century BC) is wrongly identified as "Chaldean Dynasty" by the historians but, not even the Babylonian inscriptions during the rule of this dynasty identify their people as Chaldean, or their country as chaldea. In the Babylonian Chronicles Nabuchadressar and his father Nabopolassar are identified as "Shar Akkadi" i.e. 'the King of Akkad' their army is termed 'Umman mat Akkadi' or the "Army of Akkad". Obviously 'Akkad' was the name which Babylonians used to identify their country with and their people by, 'Babilu' was the name of their capital but the contemporary historians use the term Babylon in reference to both.
The English translator of the "Babylonian Chronicles" published them under the name "Chronicles of the Chaldean Kings" Even though there is no mention of the Chaldeans or Chldea throughout them. Wiseman D.J., "Chronicles of the Chaldean Kings, (626-556 B.C.) in the British Museum", london 1956, . There is no mention of Chaldea or chaldeans in other inscriptions by the kings of the Neo-Babylonian dynasty. Morda and other history revisionists of the Chaldean Church seem to have been misled by such misinformation.
Nebuchadnezzar in his inscription identifies himself and his father as kings of Babylon and not Chaldea or chaldeans. Here is how he describes his birth: it is ironic that on the line <1.28> he claims that he was made "Under the inspection of Assur my judge" See; http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/txt/ah/Assyria/Inscrb00.html. If there were no Assyrians who was he trying to apease?
<1.23> When he, the Lord god my maker made me,
<1.24> the god Merodach, he deposited
<1.25> my germ in my mother's (womb):
<1.26> then being conceived
<1.27> I was made.
<1.28> Under the inspection of Assur my judge
In another column he write:
"<4.68> the great walls of Babylon,
<4.69> . . . I built,
<4.70> which Nabopolassar
<4.71> King, King of Babylon, the father who begat me,
<4.72> had commenced but not completed their beauty"
The "Chronicle of Nabonidus" mentions Babylonia as Akkad and the city of Babylon is called Babilu, it makes no mention of chaldea or Chaldeans.
Seventh year (549/548): The king stayed in Temâ; the crown prince, his officials and his army were in Akkad. "The king did not come to Babylon for the ceremonies of the month of Nisannu; the image of the god Nab did not come to Babylon, the image of the god Bêl did not go out of Esagila in procession, the festival of the New Year was omitted." http://www.livius.org/ct-cz/cyrus_I/babylon02.html In the same chronicle we read: 539/538) "In the month of Tašrîtu, when Cyrus attacked the army of Akkad in Opis on the Tigris, the inhabitants of Akkad revolted, but he massacred the inhabitants." If Babylonians called themselves chaldeans and their country was known as chaldea somewhere in these inscriptions there would have been a mention of the two. Long before Babylon was absorbed by the Persian Achaemenid, the name Chaldean had lost its meaning as the name of a race of men, and came to be applied to a class of Priest who were masters of reading and writing, incantation, sorcery, witchcraft, and the magical arts. It is in this context that Chaldeans are identified by the Greeks and in the Book of daniel in the Old Testament. According to Herodotus Chaldean meant astrologer. (http://www.tripatlas.com/chaldea)
Was the Language of the the Neo-Babylonian kings Aramaic?
Mrdoa writes; "After the eclipse of the Chaldean Empire, which dominated the entire Middle East for a period of eighty-five years (from 626 to 539 BC), even after the Chaldeans had submitted to foreign rule, their way of life remained fully alive, and the language of the Chaldeans which he claims to have been Aramaic, along with their alphabet was passed on to the foreign nations who ruled Mesopotamia which became a matter of pride to them.
The empire of Chaldeans Mrdoa speaks of was mostly what the kings of the Neo-Babylonian dynasty inherited from the Assyrians. " Joan Oates writes "After his accession Nebuchadressar moved into Syria for a lengthy campaign which was little more than an un-opposed display of military might , designed no doubt to facilitate the collection of tribute." Oates Joan, "Babylon" Thames and Hudson, London 1979 p. 128. Most of Syria and beyond had already been part of the Assyrian empire. Leo Oppenheim writes; "Nebuchadressar invaded and took over the provinces of the assyrian empire from the Mediterranean sea to the Persian Gulf." Oppenheim Leo, "Ancient Mesopotamia portrait od a dead civilization," University of chicago press 1963, p.163.
Oppenheim also writes; 'There is no direct indication that Chaldeans spoke a language of their own, most of the persons mentioned in the historical texts and letters have good Neo-Babylonian names....For reasons not yet clear in texts they are always differentiated from the Arameans.' Oppenheim p.160.
Nebuchadnezzar is how the Jewish scripture pronounces the name of the 2nd king of the Neo-Babylonian Dynasty. In the Babylonian inscription his name is Nebo-kudurri-ussur, which is Akkadean and means; "may Nebo protect the crown." The name of his father in the Jewish scripture is; Nebopolassar, in the Babylonian inscriptions it is: Nebo(Abu)-habal-ussur which means "Nebo protect the son." The biblical name of Belshazzar is a corruption of the Akkadean Bel-shar-ussur which means "Bel protect the prince." Judging by the names of the neo-Babylonian dynasty kings it is evident that they worshiped the same religion as the Babylonians did. It is known fact that long before the advent of the Neo-Babylonian dynasty "Aramaic language was used by the conquering Assyrians as a language of administration communication."
Non-ethnic Use of the Chaldean Name
The name chaldean has been often misused and has been attributed to different things other than national identity. For unknown reasons the priests of Marduk were called chaldean by the Jewish writers and the Greeks. The book of Isaiah writes: "Let the astrologers, star-gazers, monthly prognosticators, stand up and save thee from things that shall come upon thee." The Catholic encyclopedia writes: "In the religion of the Semites, we meet first the Babylonian-Assyrian priests, who, under the name "Chaldeans" , practiced the interpretation of dreams and the reading of the stars and conducted special schools for priests, besides performing their functions in connection with the sacrifices. Hence their division into various classes: sacrifices ( nisakku ), seers ( bârû ), exorcist ( asipu ) etc. Glorious temples with idols of human and hybrid form arose in Assyria, and (apart from the obligatory cult of the stars) served for astrological and astronomical purposes..."
The O. T. Book of Daniel defines these priests as Chaldean. "Strabo and Aelian alluded to their knowledge of astrology, as did Diodorus Siculus, and there was supposed to have been a Chaldean magician CEthanes who introduced his science into Greece, which he entered with Xerxes."
Classical Syriac writers such as Mar Aprim and others have used the term Chaldean in the same context. When we read that Daniel, of Reish Aina wrote poems against the Marcionites, Manichees, heretics and Chaldeans it is clear that these names pertained to various non-Christian heresies and not nationalities. Mar Eshai Shimun trans. Mar Odisho Metropolitan of Sawa, "Marganita (The Pearl)," Church of the East Chicago, reprint 1988 p.139 The 2nd century AD Bardaisan defines chaldeans as people who believe that "every good or bad act that they do, whether they are poor or rich, whether well or sick - all these come from the "seven Stars" or planets, and they control their ways." Malech david George, "History of the Syrian Nation and the Old Evangelic -apostalic Church of the East," Minneapolis, Minn, 1910. The 2nd century Roman historian, of Greek ethnicity, Arrian in his work "The Campaigns of Alexander" uses the name Chaldean as an appellation for the Priests of Marduk. In one instance he writes: "It was here in Babylon that Alexander came into contact with the Chaldeans, in all matters of religious ceremonial he took their advice, offering sacrifice to Bel in particular, according to their instructions." The English translator notes that by "Chaldeans" Arrian means the priest of Marduk. Selincourt trans. Arrian, "the Campaigns of alexander, Penguin Books 1971 p.173.
The early Assyriologists who depended on the Old Testament for knowledge about the Sumerians, Assyrians, and babylonians, indiscriminately credited chaldeans with all sorts of achievements. For example while Henry Rawlinson was translating certain Cuneiform tablets discovered at the library of Assur Baniapal, instantly described it as "the Chaldean account of the deluge", because a section of it reminded him of the Biblical story of the flood.
On December 3rd, 1872, Assyriologist George Smith caused a sensation when before the Society of Biblical Archaeology revealed that he had discovered "The Chaldean Account of the Deluge" that resembled the account in Genesis, but was obviously older than the Bible. Today this is known as the eleventh tablet of the Gilgamesh epic written originally by the Sumerians. "The Chaldean Account of the Deluge" was published as a book by George Smith, in 1873. Another book titled "Chaldean Account of Genesis" was published by him in 1876 which became a victorian best seller. These and other achievements wrongly attributed to the chaldeans presented them as a highly advanced ancient nation. Every mention of the Chaldean throughout history regardless of context or what it meant has been cited by the history revisionist of the Chaldean Church as justification for Chaldean ethnicity of their church members, overlooking the fact that their church was established in 1553 and the name chaldean given to it had nothing to do with the nationality of the people who joined it.
Assyriologist Henry Layard, an intelligent observant historian, in his "Nineveh and its Remain" often uses the terms Nesotrians and chaldeans as equivalent and when describing the history of Christianity in Mesopotamia he uses the latter name as substitute for the former. For example on page 241 he writes; when in the first part of the fifth century , the church was agitated by dissensions of St. Cyril and Nestorius....the chaldeans were already recognized as one of the most extensive of the eastern sects." This is utterly false, as is the next statement on page 245; "When Arabs invaded the territories of the Persian kings < in 7th century AD> and spread their new faith over Asia, they found the Chaldean church already power full in the East."Henry Layard, "Nineveh and its Remain," London 1849. In fact chaldean Church did not exist until 1553.
Mrdoa writes: “All these sources and many others confirm the Chaldean presence and persistence despite the demise of their political dominion, while there is no such source indicating the presence of the Assyrians in any part of Mesopotamia. Because, the Assyrian state disappeared after its defeat in hands of the Chaldeans and Medes between 612 to 609 BC. Which erased and faded the name Assyrian and caused the extinction of Assyrians along the lines of Balsomrein, Akkadians, and Kassites and Mitanni. . . . .”
However contemporary scholars are beginning to question the misuse of the term Chaldean by the Old Testament, and the later writers. in one such cases one scholare states: "apologist will ask what reason we have to believe that Abraham was historical and not mythical, and would have to agree with Barthel that there is none. The expression “Ur of the Chaldees” is itself anachronistic, because Babylonians seem not to have been called Chaldeans in Ur in the second millennium BC..."
We have already established that Babylonians did not call themselves Chaldean even during the Neo-Babylonian dynasty. In fact no prominant museum in any country exhibits objects of antiquity atributed to the Chaldeans. A search on the British Museum website for Assyrians lists 157 references, 113 results for babylonians, none for Chaldeans . The Metropolitain Museum of Art list 163 works of art by the Assyrians, 52 for Babylonians, nothing for the Chaldens. The Lour Museum website lists 51 items for Assyrians, 10 items for Babylonians, nothing for chladeans.
Babylon during the Persian Period
The above statement by Mrdoa shows to what extent he and others who agree with him are out of touch with reality. His references are mostly the misguided opinions of contemporary writers with limited knowledge of history. Primary sources of information nearest to the actual event are far more important in writing history than the opinions expressed by writers thousands of years removed from an event especially when those doing the judging lack the necessary knowledge to make accurate judgement.
In fact Babylon lost its identity during and after the rule of the Persians king Xerexes (485-465). Due to repeated revolts he punished the city terribly by demolishing its fortifications, tearing down the Esagila temple on top of the towering Ziggurat, confiscating the twelve ton solid golden statue of Marduk and carrying it off to Persia to be melted. Furthermore Syria which was still ruled as part of Babylon was detached from it and was incorporated into the fifth taxation province of the Persian empire. The Babylonian satrap was dissolved and southern Mesopotamia was joined with the Assyrian IXth Satrap, consequently Babylon in later centuries was known as Asuristan i.e. Assyria. Olmstead Albert, "History of The Persian Empire", Chicago Press 1948, p. 237. From 226AD to 651 Lower Mesopotamia including Babylon was the Auristan province of the the Sassanian empire. "Asoristan." i.e. Assyria
Assyrians during the Christian era
We have already presented facts that Persians kings who ruled Mesopotamia from 539 B.C. to 639 A. D. consistently mention Assyria and Assyrians as subjects of their empire, but they have not provided any information about the existence of Chaldea or chaldeans as a nationality during that time which is consistent with other sources of historical information.
Syriac documents of early christianity attest to the fact that those who became christians in Mesopotamia were of Assyrian ancestry. According to The Teaching of Addaeus the Apostle "people of the East, in the guise of merchants, passed over into the territory of the Romans, that they might see the signs which Addaeus did. And such became disciples, received from him ordination to the priesthood, and in their own country of the Assyrians they instructed the people of their nation, and erected houses of prayer there, in secret, by reason of the danger from those who worshiped fire and paid reverence to water." (i.e. Persian Zoroastrians)
See: Ante Nicene - Writing of the Early Church
Other historical sources credit the second century Tatian who in his address to the Greeks identified himself as Assyrian with having complied the Diatessaron in the syriac language which included four or five gospels that previously had existed separately into a continuous form. W. Stewart McCullough, "A short History of Syriac Christianity The Rise Of Islam," Scholars Press, Chicago1982, P.31. This was used by the Christian Assyrians as an `Authorized Version' of the Gospel until the New Testament became available. F. F. Bruce edt., "The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?" The Inter Varsity Fellowship, sixth edition 1981 p. 19.
For other references to the Assyrians as a living people by the Greek, Roman. Armenian, Assyrian, Arab, Kurds and writers of other nationalities see:
Assyrians from the fall of Nineveh to present.
See also: Assyrians: The Continuous Saga: by Frederick A. Aprim