It was not from Nestorius, but from Thomas, Bartholomew, Thaddeus, and others that this people first received the knowledge of a Savior, as will be seen in the sequel
They were a strong, and prosperous people before the Mohammedans overran Asia, living on the plains of Assyria, sustaining schools and colleges, whose students carried to China, and throughout India, probably, the first message telling that the Messiah had come
TIMOTHY is an outstanding leader of the Church of the East in connection with its great expansion throughout Asia. He belongs to the period when the Mohammedans dominated not only
The patriarch Isho-See footnote 4
yahbhII, who sat from 628-44, seeing that the downfallof the Persian Empire was imminent came to terms with Muhammad,or Abu Bakr ….The patriarch stipulated that the Christians should be protected from the attacks of their foes; that the Arabs should not make them go to war with them; that they should not compel them to change their manners and laws; that they should help them to repair their old churches; that the tax on the poor should not exceed four zuze; that the tax on the merchants and wealthy men should be ten zuzeper man; that a Christian woman servant should not be compelled to change her faith, nor to neglect fasting and prayer.
These immunities extended by
CATHOLICOS MOVES TO NEW CAPITAL OF MOSLEM EMPIRE
THE CATHOLICATE OF TIMOTHY
Timothy I (A.D. 780-824) was elected as catholicos at a time when Charlemagne was wielding his heavy sword to advance the interests of the Papacy in Europe. His election took place twelve years before the founding of Kyoto, the most famous of Japan’s ancient cities. It was during the early years of his
They have preserved the manuscripts of the Holy Scripturesincorrupt, during a long series of ages, and have now committed them into our own hands. By their long and energetic defense of pure doctrine against and-Christian error, they are entitled to the gratitude and thanks of the rest of the Christian world.See footnote 9
Timothy grasped the situation with a master’s hand. This unwearied worker was ever busy receiving reports from distant lands, at the same time stimulating training centers to graduate more and still more missionaries. He watched over the purity of the doctrine. He was continually consecrating devoted young men that had the spirit of sacrifice, missionaries who would bring mercy into cruel hearts, who would instill culture into repulsive peoples, and who would gather the galloping tribes of the desert around them to study the messages of the Sacred Word. Timothy must have been thrilled by the news from China, even though delayed because of the immense distances, that in the day of the preceding catholicos a stone monument had been erected with imperial co-operation in Changan, the capital of the nation, to the triumphs of Christianity amid the yellow race. Moreover, China was then the greatest empire in the world, and its imperial center was the most thrilling city on the globe.10There is a record of a letter that Timothy wrote, exulting in the news of the conversion of a king of the Turks. He states that these people have turned from idolatry,
existence of many leaders of provincial clergy among the Turks. The request, Timothy declares, has already been granted
“In these days the Holy Spirit has anointed a metropolitan for the Turks, and we are preparing to consecrate another one for the Tibetans.”See footnote 12
The making of this provision for Tibet portrays the success achieved by the Church of the East in that tableland nation. In other letters to a certain Rabban Sergius, the patriarch not only records the fact that he was preparing to consecrate a metropolitan for the inhabitants of
These were the bishops who preached the teaching of Christ in those countries of the Dailamites and Gilanians, and the rest of the savage peoples beyond them, and planted in them the light of the truth of the gospel of our LordSee footnote 14
….They evangelized them and they baptized them, worked miracles and showed prodigies, and the news of their exploits reached the farthest points of the East. You may learn all these clearly from the letter which some merchants and secretaries of the kings, who had penetrated as far as there for the sake of commerce and of affairs of state, wrote to [thepatriarch] Mar Timothy.
He taught and baptized many towns and numerous villages, and brought them to the teaching of the divine life. He built churches, and set up inSee footnote 15
thempriests and deacons, and singled out some brethren who were missionaries with him to teach them psalms and canticles of the Spirit. And he himself went deep inland to the farthest end of the East, in the work of the great evangelization that he was doing among pagans, Marcionites, Manichaeans, and other kinds of beliefs and abominations, and he sowed the sublime light of the teaching of the gospel, the source of life and peace.
By these facts, which have been well authenticated, one can get a glimpse of the tremendous activity going on in the bosom of the Assyrian Church. This work was to go on for many centuries after Timothy.
missionaries to India at the same time he was sending them to China. The patriarch Ishoyabh, who consummated the contract with the Moslem caliph for the protection of his people more than one hundred years previous to Timothy, censured for misconduct the metropolitan of southeastern Persia, who was located near the borders of northwestern India. His written rebuke bemoaned the disastrous effect of this leader’s
“In all the countries of the sunrise, that is to say, — among the Indians, the Chinese, the Tibetans, the Turks, and in all the provinces under the jurisdiction of this patriarchal see, there is no addition of the words ‘crucified for us’”See footnote 16
CONQUESTS OF THE MONGOLS
Mingana quotes a letter purporting to have been written by Philoxenus. He was a famous writer attached to the smaller Eastern church (Monophysite)
writer, outlines the introduction of Christianity among the Turks. The scope and analysis of its treatment dealing with the nations of farther Asia, as well as the freshness of its descriptions, sheds unusual light on a region that is little known. It presents the Turks as dwelling in tents and having no towns, villages, or houses. Well organized, they live as the children of Israel did during their forty years of wandering in the wilderness. These Turks had their premises well kept, while the people themselves were clean and neat in their habits. They accepted both the Old and New Testaments in Syriac, although evidence indicates that they had the Scriptures also in their own script. When the divine writings were used in public services, they were translated by officiating pastors into the vernacular in order that the people might understand what was read. It is a most illuminating statement concerning these Turks to read that they were ruled over by four great and powerful kings who
evidently lived at quite a distance from each other. The letter applied the name Tartar to all the divisions, and designated their country as Sericon. This is the name (as Mingana points out) which was given to China in the days of Christ. Each of these kings ruled over four hundred thousand families who accepted and obeyed the teachings and gospel of Christ. If each family was composed of an average of five persons, it would mean that the four kingdoms had a population of about eight million, and they all were Christians. From the twenty-seven grand divisions of the church administration covering the Orient, communications were sent in not only concerning new religious developments, but also about events of international importance. Thus in the year 1009, Abdisho, metropolitan of Merv, the church director in the powerful province of Khurasan, northeast Persia, wrote to the patriarch John informing him that two hundred thousand Turks and Mongolians had embraced Christianity. He pointed out that the conversion occurred because the king of the Keraits, which people spread over the region around Lake Baikal, Siberia, had been found wandering in a high mountain where he had been overtaken by a violent snowstorm. In his hopelessness he considered himself lost, and dreamed or thought he saw a giant appear to him in vision, saying, “If you will accept Christ, I will lead you to safety.” Having promised to become a Christian and having returned safely to his kingdom, he sought out Christian merchants who were traveling among his
CONQUESTS OF GENGHIS KHAN
Twelve centuries of ever-widening spiritual conquests were not accomplished any too soon by the Church of the East. The fierce energy of the countless tribes of Mongolia and Siberia, stirred by the new ideas heard from the lips of missionaries, was beginning to display itself as a world menace. These hordes needed only a leader possessing the caliber of a
Julius Caesar to go forth on conquests never halting until Germany, France, and England trembled before the next blow.
subjection and began successful conquest of the
Though already seventy years old, Djenghiz once more took field against Tanghut, which had rebelled against him; but he died during this campaign in the year 624 (1226), leaving behind him traces throughout all Asia of the fire and sword with which his love of war had devastated a whole continent; but nowhere so deeply marked as in Transoxania, where the civilization of centuries had been destroyed, and the people plunged into a depth of barbarism in which the remembrance of their former greatness and their whole future were alike engulfed. No part of all Asia suffered so severely from the incursions of the Mongolian hordes as the countries bordering on the Oxus and the Yaxartes….No wonder, then, that within five short years, the great high roads of central Asia, by which the products of China and India were conveyed to western Asia and to Europe, were deserted; that the oases, well known for their fertility, lay barren and neglected; or,finally, that the trade in arms and jewelry, in silks and enamels, so celebrated throughout Islam, decayed forever. The towns were in ruins, the peasants either murdered or compulsorily enrolled in the Mongolian army, and the artisans sent off by thousands to the farthest East to adorn and beautify the home of the conquerorSee footnote 20
….Bokhara and Samarkand never regained their former mental activity, and their intellectual labors were henceforth entirely devoted to casuistry, mysticism, and false religion.
At the time Russia was conquered it consisted of many small independent states constantly at war with one another and nominally under the common suzerainty of a grand prince or czar. (21) All the cities ravaged by the armies of Genghis were so completely obliterated from the sight of
He was not a persecutor of Christianity. It is stated that one of his wives, a Kerait by birth and a near relative of Prester John, was a Christian
KUYUK SPARES EUROPE
It was the terrible wars waged by Ogotai which brought home to the nations of Europe the threat of subjection to the Mongols. Batu, the intrepid and invincible general of Ogotai, suddenly appeared on the eastern flanks of Poland and Hungary. Hungary had been relied upon to check the Mongols, but unexpectedly it offered comparatively feeble resistance; and for a number of
THE DOCTRINES OF THE CHRISTIAN MONGOLS
The long and predominating favor with which the Mongol rulers treated the Church of the East indicates that the doctrines of the Christian Mongols were those of the Assyrian Church. This will appear to be more the case when the later histories of this remarkable people are considered. The beginning of their power, however, is connected with a significant fact from which conclusions can be drawn respecting the type of Christianity that they fell in with during the first years of their dominion. Again we consider that celebrated personage, Prester John. The name Prester John is connected with a great revolution which took place in Asiatic Tartary about 1000. Many writers of sincerity who are worthy of credit relate that a king of the Keraits had been converted to Christ. He had taken the name of John, and he with thousands of his people
THE CHURCH OF THE EAST IN ITS WIDE EXTENT OF MISSIONS
The organization of the Oriental believers is equally as interesting as the stirring events in the midst of which they labored. From the days of
“The Christians of Saint Thomas, in East India, are a branch of the Nestorians. They are named after the apostle Thomas, who is supposed to have preached the gospel in that country.”See footnote 31
They were entirely separated from the church
- 1. Condemned the pope’s supremacy,
- 2. Affirmed that the Roman Church had departed from the faith,
- 3. Denied transubstantiation,
- 4. Condemned the worship of images,
- 5. Made no use of oils,
- 6. Denied purgatory,
- 7. Would not admit of spiritual affinity,
- 8. Knew nothing of auricular confessions,
- 9. Never heard of extreme unction,
- 10. Permitted the clergy to marry,
- 11. Denied that matrimony and consecration were sacraments,
- 12. Celebrated with leavened bread and consecrated with prayer. (33)
The remarkable fact is that in the face of titanic difficulties the Church of the East was able to maintain through ages such wonderful unity of belief and soundness of Biblical living. “In the first place,” says Etheridge, speaking of one branch of the Church of the East, “the Nestorian church has always cherished a remarkable veneration for the Holy Scriptures. Their Rule of Faith has been, and is, the written word of God.”(34) Widespread and enduring was the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath among the believers of the Church of the East and the St. Thomas Christians of India who never were connected with Rome. It also was maintained among these bodies which broke off from Rome after the Council of Chalcedon; namely, the Abyssinians, the Jacobites, the Maronites, and the Armenians. The numbers sanctifying the Sabbath varied in these bodies; some endured longer than others. Noted church historians, writing of the Nestorians in Kurdistan, say,
“The Nestorian fasts are very numerous, meat being forbidden on 152 days. They eat noSee footnote 35
pork,and keep both the Sabbath and Sunday. They believe in neither auricular confession nor purgatory, and permit their priests to marry.”
Sabbath-keeping among the Abyssinians is especially worthy of notice. Of
“Encompassed on all sides by the enemies of their religion, the Ethiopians slept near a thousand years, forgetful of the world, by whom they were forgotten.”See footnote 36
When in the sixteenth century Europe again came into contact with the Abyssinians, the seventh day was found to be their weekly rest day; Sunday was only an assembly day. Sorely pressed by Mohammedanism, they made the same mistake which was made by the St. Thomas Christians of India in that they appealed for help in 1534 to the Portuguese, the greatest naval power of Europe in that day. The following argument was presented to Portugal by the Abyssinian ambassador when asked why Ethiopia sanctified the seventh day:
On the Sabbath day, because God, after he had finished the Creation of the World, rested thereon: Which Day, as God would have it called the Holy of Holies, so the not celebrating thereof with great honor and devotion, seems to be plainly contrary to God’s Will and Precept, who will suffer Heaven and Earth to pass away sooner than his Word; and that especially, since Christ came not to dissolve the Law, but to fulfill it. It is not therefore in imitation of the Jews, but in obedience to Christ and his holy Apostles, that we observe that DaySee footnote 37
….We do observe the Lord’s day after the manner of all other Christians, in memory of Christ’s Resurrection.
When the Portuguese made a gesture of sending help to the Abyssinians, a number of Jesuits were included in the mission, and they immediately began to win the Abyssinian Church to Roman Catholicism. In 1604 they influenced the king to submit to the Papacy. One of their first efforts was to have a proclamation issued by the king prohibiting all his subjects dominion penalties to observe the seventh day any longer
“They keep Saturday holy, nor esteem Saturday Fast lawful but on Easter Even. They haveSee footnote 39
SolemeService on Saturdays.”
Another authority, Josephus Abudacnus, writing in the eighteenth century in his history of the Jacobites, stated that they assembled every Sabbath in their temples, to which statement the later editor, J. Nicholai, adds the following footnote:
Our author states that the Jacobites assembled on the Sabbath day, before theSee footnote 40
Dommicalday, in the temple, and kept that day, as do also the Abyssinians as we have seen from the confession of their faith by the Ethiopia king Claudius ….From thisit appears that the Jacobites have kept the Sabbath as well as the Dommicalday, and still continue to keep it.
Alexander Ross writes that the Maronites likewise observed the Sabbath as well as Sunday
Sabbath home, dearer to them than any palace halls. In other words, they obeyed the four divine policies laid down in the first chapter of Genesis: Namely, the worship of the Creator, Sabbath observance, family life, and proper diet and temperance. Lastly, the members of the Church of the East were not only a church of evangelical activities, but also a people of sound doctrines. It is difficult to say which is the more dangerous — sound doctrines without evangelism, or evangelism without sound doctrine. The first leads to coldness in religion; the second produces vaudeville in preaching. Both these extremes were avoided by the Church of the East. It was able to give a reason for the faith, and at the same time, it displayed a life of missionary zeal and sacrifice which has seldom been surpassed.
1 Grant, The Nestorians, or the Lost Tribes, p. 72.
2 Wishard, Twenty Years in Persia, p. 18.
3 Saeki, The Nestorian Monument in China, pp. 50, 51.
4 Budge, The Monks of Kublai Khan, Emperor of China, pp. 30, 31.
5 Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 3, pp. 731, 732, note 2.
6 Yohannan, The Death of a Nation, p. 102.
7 Vambery, History of Bokhara, p. 32; also p. 89, note 2.
8 Neander, General History of the Christian Religion and Church, vol. 2, p.183, note; Saeki, The Nestorian Monument in China, pp. 116-118; Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 3, pp. 732, 732, note; Draper, History of the Intellectual Development of Europe, pp. 290,291.
9 Buchanan, Christian Researches in Asia, pp. 146, 147.
10 Among all the memorials which still remain to revive the glorious centuries of the Church of the East, this stone, which it was the privilege of the writer to study and to photograph, attracts the greatest attention.
11 Mingana, “Early Spread of Christianity,” Bulletin of John Ryland’sLibrary, vol. 9, p. 306.
12 Ibid., vol. 9, p. 306.
13 Ibid., vol. 9, p. 306.
14 Ibid., vol. 9, p. 307.
15 Mingana, “Early Spread of Christianity,” Bulletin of John Ryland’sLibrary, vol. 9, pp. 307, 308.
16 Mingana, “Early Spread of Christianity,” Bulletin of John Ryland’sLibrary, vol. 10, p. 466.
17 O’Leary, The Syriac Church
18 Mingana, “Early Spread of Christianity,” Bulletin of John Ryland’sLibrary, vol. 10, p. 113.
19 Abul Faraj, Chronography, vol. 1, p. 354.
20 Vambery, History of Bokhara, pp. 137, 138.
21 Pott, A Sketch of Chinese History, p. 81.
22 Huc, Christianity in China, Tartary, and Thibet, vol. 1, p. 129.
23 Mingana, “Early Spread of Christianity,” Bulletin of John Ryland’sLibrary, vol. 9, p. 312.
24 Abul Faraj, Chronography, vol. 1, p. 398.
25 Mingana, “Early Spread of Christianity,” Bulletin of John Ryland’sLibrary, vol. 9, p. 315.
26 Rockhill, The Journey of William of Rubruck, pp. 109, 110.
27 Ibid., pp. 141, 142.
28 Ibid., p. 168.
29 See Neander, General History of the Christian Religion and Church, vol.4, pp. 46-50.
30 Mosheim, Institutes of Ecclesiastical History, b. 3, cent. 12, pt. 1, ch. 1,par. 7, note 12.
31 M’Clintock and Strong, Cyclopedia, art. “Nestorians.”
32 Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ch. 47, par. 31.
33 D’Orsey, Portuguese Discoveries, Dependencies, and Missions in
34 Etheridge, The Syrian Churches, p. 89.
35 Schaff-Herzog, The New Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, art.“Nestorians”; also, Realencyclopaedie fur Protestantische Theologieund Kirche, art. “Nestorianer.”
36 Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ch. 47, par. 38.
37 Geddes, The Church History of Ethiopia, pp. 87, 88.
38 Ibid., pp. 311, 312.
40 Abudacnus, Historia Jacobitarum, pp. 118, 119.
41 Ross, Religions of the World, p. 493.