Nestorianism

Nestorianism is a Christian theological doctrine that upholds several distinctive teachings in the fields of Christology and Mariology. It opposes the concept of hypostatic union and emphasizes a radical distinction between two natures (human and divine) of Jesus Christ. This Christological position is defined as radical dyophisitism.[1] Nestorianism was named after Christian theologian Nestorius (386–450), Patriarch of Constantinople from 428 to 431, who was influenced by Christological teachings of Theodore of Mopsuestia at the School of Antioch.

Nestorius' teachings brought him into conflict with other prominent church leaders, most notably Cyril of Alexandria, who criticized especially his rejection of the title Theotokos ("Mother of God") for Mary, the mother of Jesus. Nestorius and his teachings were eventually condemned as heretical at the Council of Ephesus in 431, and again at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, which led to the Nestorian Schism; churches supporting Nestorian teachings broke with the rest of the Christian Church.

Following that, many of Nestorius's supporters relocated to the Sasanian Empire, where they affiliated with the local Christian community, known as the Church of the East. Over the next decades the Church of the East became increasingly Nestorian in doctrine, leading to it becoming known alternatively as the Nestorian Church.

Christology

Nestorianism
In the Nestorian view, the human and divine persons of Christ are separate.[2]

Nestorianism is a radical form of dyophysitism,[1] differing from the orthodox dyophysitism on several points, mainly by opposition to the concept of hypostatic union. It can be seen as the antithesis to monophysitism, which emerged in reaction to Nestorianism. Where Nestorianism holds that Christ had two loosely united natures, divine and human, monophysitism holds that he had but a single nature, his human nature being absorbed into his divinity. A brief definition of Nestorian Christology can be given as: "Jesus Christ, who is not identical with the Son but personally united with the Son, who lives in him, is one hypostasis and one nature: human."[3] This contrasts with Nestorius' own teaching that the Word, which is eternal, and the Flesh, which is not, came together in a hypostatic union, 'Jesus Christ', Jesus thus being both fully man and God, of two ousia (Ancient Greek: οὐσία) but of one prosopon.[4] Both Nestorianism and monophysitism were condemned as heretical at the Council of Chalcedon. Monophysitism survived and developed into the Miaphysitism of the Oriental Orthodoxy.

History

Yuan stone Nestorian inscription (rep)
Chinese stone inscription of a Nestorian Cross from a monastery of Fangshan District in Beijing (then called Dadu, or Khanbaliq), dated to the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368 AD) of medieval China.
Da Qin Pagoda
The Daqin Pagoda, controversially claimed to be part of an early Nestorian church in what was then Chang'an, now Xi'an, China, built during the Tang dynasty (618–907 AD)

Nestoranism was condemned as heresy at the Council of Ephesus. The Armenian Church rejected Council of Chalcedon (451) because they believed Chalcedonian Definition was too similar to Nestorianism. The Persian Nestorian Church, on the other hand, supported the spread of Nestorianism in Persarmenia. The Armenian Church and other eastern churches saw the rise of Nestorianism as a threat to the independence of their Church. Peter the Iberian, a Georgian prince, also strongly opposed the Chalcedonian Creed. [5] Thus, in 491, Catholicos Babken I of Armenia, along with the Albanian and Iberian bishops met in Vagharshapat and issued a condemnation of the Chalcedonian Definition.[6]

Nestorians held that the Council of Chalcedon proved the orthodoxy of their faith who had started persecuting non-Chalcedonian or monophysite Syrian Christians during the reign of Peroz I. In response to pleas for assistance from the Syrian Church, Armenian prelates issued a letter addressed to Persian Christians reaffirming their condemnation of the Nestorianism as heresy.[5]

Following the exodus to Persia, scholars expanded on the teachings of Nestorius and his mentors, particularly after the relocation of the School of Edessa to the (then) Persian city of Nisibis (modern-day Nusaybin in Turkey) in 489, where it became known as the School of Nisibis. Nestorian monasteries propagating the teachings of the Nisbis school flourished in 6th century Persarmenia.[5]

Despite this initial Eastern expansion, the Nestorians' missionary success was eventually deterred. David J. Bosch observes, "By the end of the fourteenth century, however, the Nestorian and other churches—which at one time had dotted the landscape of all of Central and even parts of East Asia—were all but wiped out. Isolated pockets of Christianity survived only in India. The religious victors on the vast Central Asian mission field of the Nestorians were Islam and Buddhism".[7]

Nestorian doctrine

Entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem, with a Female Figure in T'ang Costume, Chotscho, Sinkiang
Entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem, with a female figure dressing in the T'ang dynasty costume, 683–770 A.D.

Nestorius developed his Christological views as an attempt to understand and explain rationally the incarnation of the divine Logos, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity as the man Jesus. He had studied at the School of Antioch where his mentor had been Theodore of Mopsuestia; Theodore and other Antioch theologians had long taught a literalist interpretation of the Bible and stressed the distinctiveness of the human and divine natures of Jesus. Nestorius took his Antiochene leanings with him when he was appointed Patriarch of Constantinople by Byzantine emperor Theodosius II in 428.

Nestorius's teachings became the root of controversy when he publicly challenged the long-used title Theotokos[8] ("God-Bearer") for Mary. He suggested that the title denied Christ's full humanity, arguing instead that Jesus had two persons (dyoprosopism), the divine Logos and the human Jesus. As a result of this prosopic duality, he proposed Christotokos (Bringer forth of Christ) as a more suitable title for Mary.

Nestorius' opponents found his teaching too close to the heresy of adoptionism – the idea that Christ had been born a man who had later been "adopted" as God's son. Nestorius was especially criticized by Cyril of Alexandria, Patriarch of Alexandria, who argued that Nestorius's teachings undermined the unity of Christ's divine and human natures at the Incarnation. Some of Nestorius's opponents argued that he put too much emphasis on the human nature of Christ, and others debated that the difference that Nestorius implied between the human nature and the divine nature created a fracture in the singularity of Christ, thus creating two Christ figures.[9] Nestorius himself always insisted that his views were orthodox, though they were deemed heretical at the Council of Ephesus in 431, leading to the Nestorian Schism, when churches supportive of Nestorius and the rest of the Christian Church separated. A more elaborate Nestorian theology developed from there, which came to see Christ as having two natures united, or hypostases,[10] the divine Logos and the human Christ. However, this formulation was never adopted by all churches termed "Nestorian". Indeed, the modern Assyrian Church of the East, which reveres Nestorius, does not fully subscribe to Nestorian doctrine, though it does not employ the title Theotokos.[11]

Nestorian Schism and early history

Nestorianism became a distinct sect following the Nestorian Schism, beginning in the 430s. Nestorius had come under fire from Western theologians, most notably Cyril of Alexandria. Cyril had both theological and political reasons for attacking Nestorius; on top of feeling that Nestorianism was an error against true belief, he also wanted to denigrate the head of a competing patriarchate. Cyril and Nestorius asked Pope Celestine I to weigh in on the matter. Celestine found that the title Theotokos[12] was orthodox, and authorized Cyril to ask Nestorius to recant. Cyril, however, used the opportunity to further attack Nestorius, who pleaded with Emperor Theodosius II to call a council so that all grievances could be aired.[11]

In 431 Theodosius called the Council of Ephesus. However, the council ultimately sided with Cyril, who held that the Christ contained two natures in one divine person (hypostasis, unity of subsistence), and that the Virgin Mary, conceiving and bearing this divine person, is truly called the Mother of God (Theotokos, meaning, God-bearer). The council accused Nestorius of heresy, and deposed him as patriarch.[13] Nestorianism was officially anathematized, a ruling reiterated at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. However, a number of churches, particularly those associated with the School of Edessa, supported Nestorius – though not necessarily his doctrine – and broke with the churches of the West. Many of Nestorius' supporters relocated to the Sasanian Empire of Iran, home to a vibrant but persecuted Christian minority.[14]

The Syro-Persian Church

Palm Sunday (probably), Khocho, Nestorian Temple, 683-770 AD, wall painting - Ethnological Museum, Berlin - DSC01741
Nestorian priests in a procession on Palm Sunday, in a seventh- or eighth-century wall painting from a Nestorian church in Qocho, China
An epitaph of a Nestorian Christian
Epitaph of a Nestorian, unearthed at Chifeng, Inner Mongolia

Persia had long been home to Christian communities that had been persecuted by the Zoroastrian majority, which had accused local Christians of pro-Roman leanings. In 424, the Church in Persia declared itself independent of the Byzantine Church and all other churches, in order to ward off allegations of foreign allegiance. Following the Nestorian Schism, the Persian Church increasingly aligned itself with the Nestorians, a measure encouraged by the Zoroastrian ruling class. The Persian Church became increasingly Nestorian in doctrine over the next decades, furthering the divide between Chalcedonian Christianity and the Nestorians. In 486 the Metropolitan of Nisibis, Barsauma, publicly accepted Nestorius' mentor, Theodore of Mopsuestia, as a spiritual authority. In 489 when the School of Edessa in Mesopotamia was closed by Byzantine Emperor Zeno for its Nestorian teachings, the school relocated to its original home of Nisibis, becoming again the School of Nisibis, leading to a wave of Nestorian immigration into Persia. The Persian patriarch Babai (497–502) reiterated and expanded upon the church's esteem for Theodore, solidifying the church's adoption of Nestorianism.[14]

Now firmly established in Iran, with centers in Nisibis, Ctesiphon, and Gundeshapur, and several metropoleis, the Nestorian Persian Church began to branch out beyond the Sasanian Empire. However, through the sixth century, the church was frequently beset with internal strife and persecution by Zoroastrians. The infighting led to a schism, which lasted from 521 until around 539 when the issues were resolved. However, immediately afterward Roman-Persian conflict led to the persecution of the church by the Sassanid emperor Khosrow I; this ended in 545. The church survived these trials under the guidance of Patriarch Aba I, who had converted to Christianity from Zoroastrianism.[14]

The church emerged stronger after this period of ordeal, and increased missionary efforts farther afield. Missionaries established dioceses in the Arabian Peninsula and India (the Saint Thomas Christians). They made some advances in Egypt, despite the strong miaphysite presence there.[15] Missionaries entered Central Asia and had significant success converting local Turkic tribes. Nestorian missionaries were firmly established in China during the early part of the Tang dynasty (618–907); the Chinese source known as the Nestorian Stele records a mission under a Persian proselyte named Alopen as introducing Nestorian Christianity to China in 635. Following the Muslim conquest of Persia, completed in 644, the Persian Church became a dhimmi community under the Rashidun Caliphate. The church and its communities abroad grew larger under the Caliphate. By the 10th century it had 15 metropolitan sees within the Caliphate's territories, and another five elsewhere, including in China and India.[14] After that time, however, Nestorianism went into decline.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Burgess 1989, p. 90, 229, 231.
  2. ^ Hogan, Dissent from the Creed. pages 123–125.
  3. ^ Martin Lembke, lecture in the course "Meetings with the World's Religions", Centre for Theology and Religious Studies, Lund University, Spring Term 2010.
  4. ^ The Bazaar of Heracleides
  5. ^ a b c Stopka, Krzysztof (2016-12-16). Armenia Christiana: Armenian Religious Identity and the Churches of Constantinople and Rome (4th–15th Century). Wydawnictwo UJ. pp. 62–68. ISBN 978-83-233-9555-3.
  6. ^ Zvartnots and the Origins of Christian Architecture in Armenia, W. Eugene Kleinbauer, The Art Bulletin, Vol. 54, No. 3 (September 1972): 261.
  7. ^ Bosch, David (1991). Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. Orbis Books. p. 204. ISBN 978-1-60833-146-8.
  8. ^ Eirini Artemi, Cyril of Alexandria's critique of the term THEOTOKOS by Nestorius Constantinople, Acta theol. vol.32 no.2 Bloemfontein Dec. 2012
  9. ^ Jerry Bentley, Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-Modern Times (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 105.
  10. ^ The Catholic Encyclopedia. "Nestorius and Nestorianism".
  11. ^ a b "Nestorius". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved January 29, 2010.
  12. ^ Eirini Artemi, Cyril of Alexandria's critique of the term THEOTOKOS by Nestorius Constantinople, Acta theol. vol.32 no.2 Bloemfontein Dec. 2012,
  13. ^ "Cyril of Alexandria, Third Epistle to Nestorius, with 'Twelve Anathemas' - Monachos.net". Archived at the Wayback Machine. Archived from the original on July 4, 2008.
  14. ^ a b c d "Nestorian". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved January 28, 2010.
  15. ^ Campbell, Ted (1996). Christian Confessions: A Historical Introduction. Westminster: John Knox Press. ISBN 978-0-664-25650-0., page 62.

Further reading

External links

Christianity in Mongolia

Christianity in Mongolia is a minority religion. As of 2005, the United States Department of State reports that approximately 24,000 Christians live in Mongolia's capital, Ulaanbaatar, which is around 2.5 percent of the entire registered population of the city.Most Christians in Mongolia became Christian after the end of Mongolia's communist regime in 1990. According to the Christian missionary group Barnabas Fund, the number of Christians grew from just four in 1989 to around 40,000 as of 2008.

Church of the East in China

The Church of the East or Nestorian Church had a presence in China during two periods: first from the 7th through the 10th century, and later during the Mongol Yuan Dynasty in the 13th and 14th centuries. Locally, the religion was known as Jingjiao/Ching-chiao (景教), which literally means the “Luminous Religion”.

Council of Ephesus

The Council of Ephesus was a council of Christian bishops convened in Ephesus (near present-day Selçuk in Turkey) in AD 431 by the Roman Emperor Theodosius II. This third ecumenical council, an effort to attain consensus in the church through an assembly representing all of Christendom, confirmed the original Nicene Creed, and condemned the teachings of Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, who held that the Virgin Mary may be called the Christotokos, "Birth Giver of Christ" but not the Theotokos, "Birth Giver of God". It met in June and July 431 at the Church of Mary in Ephesus in Anatolia.

First seven ecumenical councils

In the history of Christianity, the first seven ecumenical councils include the following: the First Council of Nicaea in 325, the First Council of Constantinople in 381, the Council of Ephesus in 431, the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the Second Council of Constantinople in 553, the Third Council of Constantinople from 680–681 and finally, the Second Council of Nicaea in 787.

These seven events represented an attempt by Church leaders to reach an orthodox consensus, restore peace and develop a unified Christendom. Eastern Orthodox Christians, Oriental Orthodox Christians, the Church of the East, Anglican, Old Catholic, and Roman Catholics, all trace the legitimacy of their clergy by apostolic succession back to this period and beyond, to the earlier period referred to as Early Christianity.

This era begins with the First Council of Nicaea, which enunciated the Nicene Creed that in its original form and as modified by the First Council of Constantinople of 381 was seen by all later councils as the touchstone of orthodoxy on the doctrine of the Trinity.

The Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church accept all seven of these councils as legitimate ecumenical councils. The Oriental Orthodox Churches accept only the first three, while the Church of the East accepts only the first two. There is also one additional council (the Quinisext Council), which was held between the sixth and seventh ecumenical councils (in AD 692), and which issued organizational, liturgical and canonical rules but did not discuss theology. It is accepted as ecumenical by the Eastern Orthodox Church alone, however the Eastern Orthodox do not give it a number, but rather count it as a continuation of the sixth council. The Catholic Church does not accept the Quinisext Council, but it considers that there have been many more ecumenical councils after the first seven.

John of Antioch

Other persons with the same name: John of Antioch (disambiguation)John I of Antioch was Patriarch of Antioch (429–441) and led a group of moderate Eastern bishops during the Nestorian controversy. He is sometimes confused with John Chrysostom, who is occasionally also referred to as John of Antioch. John gave active support to his friend Nestorius in the latter's dispute with Cyril of Alexandria. In the year 431, he arrived too late for the opening meeting of the First Council of Ephesus. Cyril, suspecting John of using procrastinating tactics to support Nestorius, decided not to wait and convened the council without John and his supporters, condemning Nestorius. When John reached Ephesus a few days after the council had begun, he convened a counter-council which condemned Cyril and vindicated Nestorius.

Two years later, in 433 John reconciled with Cyril based on the Formula of Reunion, a theological formula devised as a compromise. In the process, John lost many of his own supporters within his patriarchate. Some of his letters are extant.

Keraites

The Keraites (also Kerait, Kereit, Khereid ; Mongolian: Хэрэйд) were one of the five dominant Turco-Mongol tribal confederations (khanates) in the Altai-Sayan region during the 12th century. They had converted to the Church of the East (Nestorianism) in the early 11th century and are one of the possible sources of the European Prester John legend.

Their original territory was expansive, corresponding to much of what is now Mongolia. Vasily Bartold (1913) located them along the upper Onon and Kherlen rivers and along the Tuul river. They were defeated by Genghis Khan in 1203 and became influential in the rise of the Mongol Empire, and were gradually absorbed into the succeeding Turco-Mongol khanates during the 13th century.

List of 12th-century religious leaders

List of 11th-century religious leaders - List of 13th-century religious leaders - Lists of religious leaders by centuryThis is a list of the top-level leaders for religious groups with at least 50,000 adherents, and that led anytime from January 1, 1101, to December 31, 1200. It should likewise only name leaders listed on other articles and lists.

List of 13th-century religious leaders

List of 12th-century religious leaders - List of 14th-century religious leaders - Lists of religious leaders by centuryThis is a list of the top-level leaders for religious groups with at least 50,000 adherents, and that led anytime from January 1, 1201, to December 31, 1300. It should likewise only name leaders listed on other articles and lists.

Maximianus of Constantinople

Maximianus (? – 12 April 434) was the archbishop of Constantinople from 25 October 431 until his death on 12 April 434.

Miaphysitism

Miaphysitism is Cyril of Alexandria's Christological formula holding that in the person of Jesus Christ, divine nature and human nature are united (μία, mia – "one" or "unity") in a compound nature ("physis"), the two being united without separation, without mixture, without confusion and without alteration.Historically, Chalcedonian Christians have considered Miaphysitism in general to be amenable to an orthodox interpretation, in contrast to Monophysitism. Since 1142, Oriental Orthodoxy uses the term "Miaphysite" for themselves but prefer to call themselves non-Chalcedonians.

Naimans

The Naiman (Kazakh: Найман; Uzbek: Nayman; Khalkha-Mongolian: Найман/Naiman, "eight") is a tribe originating in Mongolia, one of the tribes in middle juz of Kazakh nation.

Nestorian Schism

The Nestorian Schism (431–544), in church history, involved a split between the Christian churches of Sassanid Persia, which affiliated with Nestorius, and churches that rejected him. The schism rose out of a Christological dispute, notably involving Cyril (Patriarch of Alexandria) and Nestorius (Patriarch of Constantinople). The First Council of Ephesus in 431 and the Council of Chalcedon in 451 condemned Nestorius and his doctrine, which emphasized the radical distinctness between Christ's human and divine natures.

That forced a breach between the churches that defended Nestorius and the state church of the Roman Empire, which caused the Church of the East, the Christian church of Sassanid Persia, to become known as the Nestorian Church, as it took the side of Nestorius.

Nestorius

Nestorius (; in Greek: Νεστόριος; c. 386 – 450) was Archbishop of Constantinople (now Istanbul) from 10 April 428 to August 431, when Emperor Theodosius II confirmed his condemnation by the Council of Ephesus on 22 June.

His teachings included a rejection of the long-used title of Theotokos, "Mother of God", for Mary, mother of Jesus, and they were considered by many to imply that he did not believe that Christ was truly God. That brought him into conflict with other prominent churchmen of the time, most notably Cyril of Alexandria, whom he accused of heresy.

Nestorius sought to defend himself at the First Council of Ephesus in 431 but instead found himself formally condemned for heresy by a majority of the bishops and was subsequently removed from his see. On his own request, he retired to his former monastery, in or near Antioch. In 435, Theodosius II sent him into exile in Upper Egypt, where he lived on until 450, strenuously defending his orthodoxy. His last major defender within the Roman Empire, Theodoret of Cyrrhus, finally agreed to anathematize him in 451 during the Council of Chalcedon.

From then on, he had no defenders within the empire, but the Church of the East never accepted his condemnation. That led later to western Christians giving the name Nestorian Church to the Church of the East where his teachings were deemed Orthodox and in line with its own teachings. Nestorius is revered as among three "Greek Teachers" of the Church (in addition to Diodorus of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia). Parts of the Church of the East's Eucharistic Service, which is known to be among the oldest in the world, is contributed to with prayers attributed to Nestorius himself.

The Second Council of Constantinople of AD 553 confirmed the validity of the condemnation of Nestorius, refuting the letter of Ibas of Edessa that affirms that Nestorius was condemned without due inquiry.The discovery, translation and publication of his Bazaar of Heracleides at the beginning of the 20th century have led to a reassessment of his theology in western scholarship. It is now generally agreed that his ideas were not far from those that eventually emerged as orthodox, but the orthodoxy of his formulation of the doctrine of Christ is still controversial.

Ongud

The Ongud, (Mongolian: Онгуд, Онход) were Mongols active in Mongolia around the time of Genghis Khan (1162–1227). Many members were members of the Church of the East. They lived in an area lining the Great Wall in the northern part of the Ordos Plateau and territories to the northeast of it. They appear to have had two capitals, a northern one at the ruin known as Olon Süme and another a bit to the south at a place called Koshang or Dongsheng. They acted as wardens of the marches for the Jin dynasty (1115–1234) to the north of Shanxi.

Oriental Orthodoxy

Oriental Orthodoxy is the fourth largest communion of Christian churches, with about 76 million members worldwide. As one of the oldest religious institutions in the world, it has played a prominent role in the history and culture of Armenia, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan and parts of the Middle East and India. An Eastern Christian communion of autocephalous churches, its bishops are equal by virtue of episcopal ordination, and its doctrines can be summarised in that the communion recognizes the validity of only the first three ecumenical councils.The Oriental Orthodox communion is composed of six autocephalous churches: the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, and the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. Collectively, they consider themselves to be the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic church founded by Jesus Christ in his Great Commission, and that its bishops are the successors of Christ's apostles. Most member churches are part of the World Council of Churches. All member churches share a virtually identical theology, with the distinguishing feature being Miaphysitism. Three very different rites are practiced in the communion: the western-influenced Armenian Rite, the West Syrian Rite of the two Syriac churches, and the Alexandrian Rite of the Copts, Ethiopians and Eritreans.

At the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD, the Oriental Orthodox churches separated from the Imperial Roman Church, primarily over differences in Christology. Oriental Orthodoxy developed distinctively under the Patriarchate of Alexandria in Egypt, originally part of the Pentarchy, and the only episcopal see besides the Holy See to maintain the title "Pope". The majority of Oriental Orthodox Christians live in Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Armenia, with smaller Syriac communities living in the Middle East–decreasing due to persecution–and India. There are also many in other parts of the world, formed through diaspora, conversions, and missionary activity.

Pentecontad calendar

The pentecontad calendar (from πεντηκοντάς pentēkontás) is an agricultural calendar system thought to be of Amorite origin in which the year is broken down into seven periods of fifty days (a total of 350 days), with an annual supplement of fifteen or sixteen days. Identified and reconstructed by Julius and Hildegaard Lewy in the 1940s, the calendar's use dates back to at least the 3rd millennium BCE in western Mesopotamia and surrounding areas. Used well into the modern age, forms of it have been found in Nestorianism and among the Fellahin of modern Palestine.

Religion in Mongolia

Religion in Mongolia has been traditionally dominated by the schools of Mongolian Buddhism and by Mongolian shamanism, the ethnic religion of the Mongols. Historically, through their Mongol Empire the Mongols were exposed to the influences of Christianity (Nestorianism and Catholicism) and Islam, although these religions never came to dominate. During the socialist period of the Mongolian People's Republic (1924-1992) all religions were suppressed, but with the transition to the parliamentary republic in the 1990s there has been a general revival of faiths.

According to the national census of 2010, 53% of the Mongolians identify as Buddhists, 38.6% as not religious, 3% as Muslims (predominantly of Kazakh ethnicity), 2.9% as followers of the Mongol shamanic tradition, 2.2% as Christians, and 0.4% as followers of other religions. Other sources estimate that a significantly higher proportion of the population follows the Mongol ethnic religion (18.6%).

School of Edessa

The School of Edessa (Syriac: ܐܣܟܘܠܐ ܕܐܘܪܗܝ‎), often confused with the School of Nisibis, was a theological school of great importance to the Syriac-speaking world. It had been founded as long ago as the 2nd century by the kings of the Abgar dynasty. In 363, Nisibis fell to the Persians, causing St. Ephrem the Syrian, accompanied by a number of teachers, to leave the School of Nisibis. They went to Edessa, where Ephrem took over the directorship of its school. Then, its importance grew still further. There were innumerable monasteries at Edessa housing many monks and offering many cells for their abode. Ephrem occupied a cell there, practicing the ascetic life, interpreting Holy Scripture, composing poetry and hymns and teaching in the school, as well as instructing young girls in church music.In 489, after the Nestorian Schism, the Byzantine emperor, Zeno, ordered the school summarily closed for its teachings of Nestorian doctrine. Its scholars moved back to the School of Nisibis.

School of Nisibis

The School of Nisibis (Syriac: ܐܣܟܘܠܐ ܕܢܨܝܒܝܢ‎), for a time absorbed into the School of Edessa, was an educational establishment in Nisibis (now Nusaybin, Turkey). It was an important spiritual centre of the early Church of the East, and like the Academy of Gondishapur, it is sometimes referred to as the world's first university. The school had three primary departments teaching: theology, philosophy and medicine. Its most famous teacher was Narsai, formerly head of the School of Edessa.

The school was founded in 350 in Nisibis. In 363, when Nisibis fell to the Persians, St. Ephrem the Syrian, accompanied by a number of teachers, left the school. They went to the School of Edessa, where Ephrem took over the directorship of the school there. It had been founded as long ago as the 2nd century by the kings of the Abgar dynasty. When Ephrem took over the school, its importance grew still further. After the Nestorian Schism, when the Byzantine emperor Zeno ordered the school closed for its teachings of Nestorian doctrine, deemed heretical by Chalcedonian Christianity, the School moved back to Nisibis.

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