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The Nestorians and their Rituals

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The Nestorians and their Rituals

Sep-30-2000 at 02:11 AM (UTC+3 Nineveh, Assyria)

The Nestorians and their Rituals
By: Percy George Badger
ISBN # 1 85077 166 9 (Two Volumes)

Many have written about the Assyrian Christians (Nestorians, Jacobites and Chaldeans). While some have very little or no real contact with the various Christian communities in north Bet Nahrain, they wrote about them from what they themselves read from others. Very known few have come this close to the subjects in question and learned the facts directly from the people involved. Badger made two separate visits to the Assyrian regions, during 1842-1844 and later in 1850. While many admit that being close to the Rassam's Catholic family during his first visit, Badger's sister Mathelda married Rassam, influenced his writtings during that period, his latter trip acquired him facts greatly needed to give a better picture of the Assyrians. He re-evaluated his opinion and admitted that he did not have the best picture before and that he was but human who made few mistakes earlier.
Lets read few passages from his book that deals with some Assyrian matters but and concentrate on the Chaldean title, a very important topic for Assyrians to understand.

While at Diarbekir, Turkey, Badger met with Bishop Botros of the Chaldean Catholic Church and this is what he wrote on page 42 Vol. I:
We interchanged visits with Mutran Botros, the Chaldean Bishop, who was very polite to us, and readily answered all our questions. He is of Nestorian origin, and was sent to Rome when young, and educated at the Propaganda. Like most of the Chaldeans at Diarbekir who are descendants of the old Nestorians, he is a zealous supporter of the papacy, and it was once thought that he would have been raised to the patriarchate instead of Mutran Zeyya of Salamast.

After leaving Midyat and passing through Mar Gawriel Church in Deir al-Ammar, Badger writes on page 56 Vol. I:
After resting for an hour, we pursued our journey over the same hilly district and rugged road, passed a Syrian village with a neat looking church on our left, saw the remains of extensive terracing in the hills beyond, On the next page, Badger writes: Three hours beyond we put up at Azekh, another Syrian village, containing about 160 families, surrounded by extensive vineyards.
Badger is in Anatolia and Turkish land, why is he calling those towns Syrian villages? Syrian villages in Turkey? Have we read anywhere of any Canadian villages in the USA? The term Syrian was commonly used in theological studies by which it was meant the Christian Assyrians, since Syrian was synonymous to Assyrian.

To those who question the political existence of the Assyrians of the Nestorian faith in Mosul, here is what Badger said on page 73 Vol. I:
Mohammed Pasha had already ruled over this province for seven years, and had been instrumental in introducing many salutary reforms in the administration. Before his appointment Mosul had been governed for a century and a half by native pashas of Christian origin. Abd al-Jeleel was a Nestorian, one of whose sons embraced Islamism, and afterwards rose to the dignity of pasha. From him the government of the province became hereditary in that family, and descended in unbroken succession till within a few years, when it was violently interrupted by an insurrection, which introduced a train of miseries that have but just now ceased.
Mosul is an Assyrian town, built by the remnant of the Assyrians who lost their homes after the destruction of Nineveh because of war but including the flooding of the river Khoser what ran through the city. Mosul is situated on the western bank of the Tigris, across from ancient Nineveh, which was situated on the eastern side of the river. A good wall of three miles in circumference surrounds Mosul, which encloses the town and with a large space covered with more ruins and extensive fields. Badger attests to this fact when he writes on page 79 Vol. I:
The houses are built of stone, with arched roofs, and the walls of the court yards partly faced with slabs of sculptured marble, or rather alabaster, after the manner of the buildings which have lately been discovered in the mounds of Nineveh and Nimrod.

Badger, on page 178 Vol. I, writes:
Whenever the term Chaldean occurs in the Nestorian rituals, which it does ONLY in two instances, it is not used to designate a Christian community, but the ancient sects, who have been called also Sabeans, or worshippers of the heavenly host . And says: Mar Abd Yeshua uses it in the same sense; thus he write: Gawriel, Bishop of Hormuzdshir, wrote a work against Manes, and another against the Chaldeans.
He continues to say: Daniel, of Reish Aina, wrote poems against the Marcionites, Manichees, heretics, and Chaldeans.
He states on page 179 Vol. I:
They call themselves Soorayeh, Nestorayeh, and sometimes Christianeh and Meshihayeh, but NEVER Chaldayeh or Chaldani. Dr. Grants testimony goes to establish the above statements; his words are these: Chaldean is a name commonly used to designate the papal, but it is seldom applied to the orthodox Nestorians; .
And Badger then says:
The origin of the term Chaldean as applied to a Christian sect, is correctly given in the following extract from Smith and Dwights Researches in Armenia:The present Chaldean Christians are of recent origin. It was in AD 1681, that the Nestorian Metropolitan of Diarbekir, having quarrelled with his patriarch, was first consecrated by the Pope patriarch of the Chaldeans. The sect was as new as the office, and created for it. Converts to papacy from the Nestorian and Jacobite churches were united in one body, and dignified by the name of the Chaldean Church. It means no more than Papal Syrians as we have in other parts Papal Armenians and Papal Greeks.
After giving this very important quotation, Dr. Grant touches on a very crucial issue being the importance of not mixing national origin with religious denomination. He brings to mind that it has happened before that Nestorians have used the Chaldean religious title, although he did not mention the reasons behind that move, but we will discuss that later. Dr. Grant says something here which needs no more elaboration on:
There appear to be propriety in applying this name to the Nestorians as a Christian sect; and its casual employment among them is a circumstance of little importance, except as it may lead to wrong conclusions respecting their origin.

We need now to discuss the issue regarding the use of the title Chaldean by the Nestorian Patriarch Mar Oraham Shimun during His Patriarchate (1820-1860). There are very good reasons for this tactical move that Mar Oraham Shimun had to undertake.
1. The Assyrians of the Nestorian faith were in a very dangerous situation, a situation that could have led to their total extinction. They were harassed, persecuted and massacred by Badir Khan Beg and the other Kurdish amirs in the Ottoman regions. One of the reasons why the Turks were so involved and allowed this to continue was because they were being instructed by the Latin missionaries to force the Nestorians to repel their church and join that of the Roman Catholics.
2. Badger, on page 181,states that it is true that the Nestorian Patriarch in SOME of His official documents styled Himself as Patriarch of the Chaldeans because He wanted and as Badger puts it;
To put Himself on an equality with the Chaldean Patriarch of the plains , after they had joined the Church of Rome and taken that appellation , and as a stratagem to repel the name of Nestorian, which then more especially began to be regarded as a reproachful epithet through the aspersions cast upon it by the Latin missionaries.
The Nestorian Patriarchs, says Badger, generally, repudiated the title Chaldean, and there isnt any proof that they ever used it. For a matter of fact, Badger says that he has in his position the impression of a seal belonging to one of the late Mar Elias of Alqosh, which bears the following motto: The undeserving Elia, by grace Patriarch and Occupant of the throne of Addai and Mari.
On page 187 Vol. I, Badger mentioned one of the ways the Roman See followed to persuade and induce the Nestorian Patriarch to submit to Rome, promising Him a large amount of money, he writes:
Mons. Bore, who had been deputed by the Society of Lyons to report upon the probable success of a scheme of this nature, had given his opinion in these words: Two thousand franks were accordingly remitted from the aforesaid Society with the avowed object of making a proselyte of Mar Shimoon, and the most sanguine hopes of success were entertained by the papal party.
"The Nestorians of the present day have scarcely any other books besides the Church Rituals, all the remaining MSS. being in the possession of the so-called Chaldeans. At the patriarchate in Mosul there are about 50 volumes, several of which are imperfect, and few of much value. At Baghdad and Mardeen there are also small collections, and report says that a good library still exists at Sert under the Chaldean Bishop of that diocese, and that among them is a very ancient MS. of the New Testament written on vellum."
(Page 13) vol. II

It is very obvious from the above which is coming from couple renowned authors and historians that the Chaldean title is nothing but a religious one. It is true that the Nestorian Patriarch Mar Oraham Shimun of the Assyrian tribes in the mountains of Hakkari did sometimes style Himself as Patriarch of the Chaldeans, but He simply did so to receive the same good treatment his counterpart of the Chaldean Church was receiving in the plains. The Nestorian Patriarch did so during one of the harshest periods of the Assyrian Nestorians history in the modern times. What other alternative did the Nestorian Patriarch had to escape the persecution of the Ottoman Turks and the lawless Kurdish amirs lead by Badr Khan Beg who were paid by the Latin missionaries? What other options did the helpless Nestorian Patriarch had in order to save His Church from the zeal of the Catholic Church of Rome?
Today, many Assyrians in Iraq from fear of the brutality of the Baath government are obliged to say that they are Arabs when confronted with census issues or other governmental related matters. Does this mean in reality that the Assyrians are Arabs?
Fred Aprim

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