Syriac Christianity

Syriac Christianity (Syriac: ܡܫܝܚܝܘܬܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܬܐ‎ / Mšiḥāyuṯā Suryāyṯā) is the form of Eastern Christianity whose formative theological writings and traditional liturgy are expressed in the Syriac language.[1][2][3]

The Syriac language is a variety of Middle Aramaic that in an early form emerged in Edessa, Upper Mesopotamia in the first century AD.[4] It is closely related to the Jewish Palestinian Aramaic spoken by Jesus.[5] This relationship added to its prestige for Christians.[6] The form of the language in use in Edessa predominated Christian writings and was accepted as the standard form, "a convenient vehicle for the spread of Christianity wherever there was a substrate of spoken Aramaic".[1] The area where Syriac or Aramaic was spoken, an area of contact and conflict between the Roman Empire and the Sasanian Empire, extended from around Antioch in the west to Seleucia-Ctesiphon, the Sasanian capital (in Iraq), in the east[1] and comprised the whole or parts of present-day Lebanon, Palestine/Israel, Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran.[2]


Syriac Christian denominations
Present-day Middle-Eastern Syriac Christian denominations

Christianity began in the Middle East in Jerusalem among Aramaic-speaking Jews. It soon spread to other Aramaic-speaking Semitic peoples along the Mediterranean coast and also to the inland parts of the Roman Empire and beyond that into the Parthian Empire and the later Sasanian Empire, including Mesopotamia, which was dominated at different times and to varying extents by these empires.

The ruins of the Dura-Europos church, dating from the first half of the 3rd century are concrete evidence of the presence of organized Christian communities in the Aramaic-speaking area, far from Jerusalem and the Mediterranean coast, and there are traditions of the preaching of Christianity in the region as early as the time of the Apostles.

However, "virtually every aspect of Syriac Christianity prior to the fourth century remains obscure, and it is only then that one can feel oneself on firmer ground."[7] The fourth century is marked by the many writings in Syriac of Saint Ephrem the Syrian, the Demonstrations of the slightly older Aphrahat and the anonymous ascetical Book of Steps. Ephrem lived in the Roman Empire, close to the border with the Sasanian Empire, to which the other two writers belonged.[7]

Other items of early literature of Syriac Christianity are the Diatessaron of Tatian, the Curetonian Gospels and the Syriac Sinaiticus, the Peshitta Bible and the Doctrine of Addai.

The bishops who took part in the First Council of Nicea (325), the first of the ecumenical councils, included twenty from Syria and one from Persia, outside the Roman Empire.[8] Two councils held in the following century divided Syriac Christianity into two opposing parties.

East-West theological contrast

In 431, the Council of Ephesus, which is reckoned as the third ecumenical council, condemned Nestorius and Nestorianism. It was ignored by the East Syriac Church of the East, which had been established in the Sasanian Empire as a distinct Church at the Council of Seleucia-Ctesiphon in 410, and which at the Synod of Dadisho in 424 had declared the independence of its head, the Catholicos, in relation to "western" (Roman Empire) Church authorities. Even in its modern form of Assyrian Church of the East and Ancient Church of the East, it honours Nestorius as a teacher and saint.[9]

In 451, the Council of Chalcedon, the fourth ecumenical council, condemned Monophysitism. This council was rejected by the Oriental Orthodox Churches, one of which is the West Syriac Syriac Orthodox Church. The Patriarchate of Antioch was then divided between a Chalcedonian and a non-Chalcedonian communion. The Chalcedonians were often labelled 'Melkites' (Emperor's Party), while their opponents were labelled Monophysites (those who believe in the one rather than two natures of Christ) and Jacobites (after Jacob Baradaeus). The Maronite Church found itself caught between the two (allegedly embracing Monothelitism), but claims to have always remained faithful to the Catholic Church and in communion with the bishop of Rome, the Pope.[10]

The two Christological doctrines that were thus condemned are polar opposites.[11] Both the West Syriac Church and the East Syriac maintained that their own doctrine was not heretical and accused the other of holding the opposing condemned doctrine.

Their fifth-century estrangement still persists. In 1999 the Coptic Orthodox Church blocked admittance of the Assyrian Church of the East to the Middle East Council of Churches, which has among its members the Chaldean Catholic Church and some Protestant Churches,[12] [13] and demanded that it remove from its liturgy the mention of Diodore, Theodore, and Nestorius, whom it venerates as "the Greek doctors".[14]

East-West liturgical contrast

The liturgies of the East and West Syriacs are quite distinct. The East Syriac Rite is noted especially for its eucharistic Qurbana of Addai and Mari, in which the Words of Institution are absent. West Syriacs use the Syro-Antiochian or West Syriac Rite, which belongs to the family of liturgies known as the Antiochene Rite.

The Syriac Orthodox Church adds to the Trisagion ("Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us") the phrase "who were crucified for us". The Church of the East interpreted this as heretical.[15] Church of the East Patriarch Timothy I declared: "In all countries of Babylon, of Persia, and of Assyria and in all countries of sunrise, that is to say among the Indians, the Chinese, the Tibetans, the Turks, and in all provinces under the jurisdiction of this Patriarchal See there is no use of 'Crucified for us'.”[16]

Among the Saint Thomas Christians of India, the East Syriac Rite was the one originally used, but those who in the 17th century accepted union with the Syriac Orthodox Church adopted the rite of that church.

Further divisions

Present-day divisions of Saint Thomas Christians (also known as Syrian Christians)

A schism in 1552 in the Church of the East gave rise to a separate patriarchate, which at first entered into union with the Catholic Church but later formed the nucleus of the present-day Assyrian Church of the East and Ancient Church of the East, while at the end of the 18th century most followers of the earlier patriarchate chose union with Rome and, with some others, now form the Chaldean Catholic Church.

In India, the majority of the Saint Thomas Christians, who initially depended on the Church of the East, maintained union with Rome in spite of discomforts felt at Latinizations by their Portuguese rulers and clergy, against which they protested. They now form the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. A small group, which split from these in the early 19th century, united at the beginning of the 20th century, under the name of Chaldean Syrian Church, with the Assyrian Church of the East.

In India, all the Saint Thomas Christians are collectively called Syrian Christians.

Those who in 1553 broke with the Catholic Church as embodied in the Portuguese in India and soon chose union with the Syriac Orthodox Church later split into various groups. The first separation was that of the Malabar Independent Syrian Church in 1772. In 1889 the Mar Thoma Syrian Church, adopted an Anglican-inspired theology, broke away and in turn those within it who adopted a more pronounced Reformation attitude formed in 1961 the St. Thomas Evangelical Church. At the end of the 19th century and in the course of the 20th, a division arose among those who remained united with the Syriac Orthodox Church who insisted on full autocephaly and are now called the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church and those, the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church, who remain faithful to the patriarch.

A reunion movement led in 1930 to the establishment of full communion between some of the Malankara Syrian Orthodox and the Catholic Church. They now form the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church.

In the Middle East, the newly enthroned patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church, Ignatius Michael III Jarweh, declared himself a Catholic and, having received confirmation from Rome in 1783, became the head of the Syriac Catholic Church.

In the 19th and 20th centuries many Syriac Christians, both East ad West, left the Middle East for other lands, creating a substantial diaspora.[17]


Celebration at a Syriac Orthodox monastery in Mosul, Ottoman Syria (now Iraq), early 20th century

Indigenous Aramaic speakers of Mesopotamia (Syriac: ܣܘܪܝܝܐ‎, Arabic: سُريان‎)[18] adopted Christianity very early, perhaps already from the first century, and began to abandon their three-millennia-old traditional ancient Mesopotamian religion, although this religion did not fully die out until as late as the tenth century. The kingdom of Osroene with the city of Edessa was absorbed into the Roman Empire in 114 as a semiautonomous vassal state and then, after a period under the rule of the Parthian Empire, was incorporated as a simple Roman province in 214.[19][20]

Syriac Christianity
East Syriac (Church of the East) metropolitan sees in the Far East in the 9th to 13th centuries

In 431 the Council of Ephesus declared Nestorianism a heresy. Nestorians, persecuted in the Byzantine Empire, sought refuge in the parts of Mesopotamia that were part of the Sasanian Empire. This encouraged acceptance of Nestorian doctrine by the Persian Church of the East, which spread Christianity outside Persia, to India, China, Tibet and Mongolia, expanding the range of this eastern branch of Syriac Christianity. The western branch, the Jacobite Church, appeared after the Council of Chalcedon's condemnation of Monophysitism in 451.[21]

Churches of Syriac traditions

East Syriac Christians were involved in the mission to India, and many of the present Churches in India are in communion with either East or West Syriac Churches. These Indian Christians are known as Saint Thomas Christians.

In modern times, various Evangelical denominations sent representatives among the Syriac peoples. As a result, several Evangelical groups have been established, particularly the Assyrian Pentecostal Church (mostly in America, Iran, and Iraq) from East Syriac peoples, and the Aramean Free Church (mostly in Germany, Sweden, America and Syria) from West Syriac peoples. Because of their Protestant theology these are not normally classified as Eastern Churches or Syriac Christianity.

See also



  1. ^ a b c Lucas van Rompay, "The East: Syria and Mesopotamia" in Susan Ashbrook Harvey, David G. Hunter (editors), The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Studies (Oxford University Press 2008), p. 366
  2. ^ a b Heleen Murre-van der Berg, "Syriac Christianity" in Ken Parry (editor), The Blackwell Companion to Eastern Christianity (John Wiley & Sons 2010), p. 249
  3. ^ Robert A. Kitchen, "The Syriac Tradition" in Augustine Casiday, The Orthodox Christian World (Routledge 2012), p. 66
  4. ^ Cameron, Averil; Garnsey, Peter (1998). The Cambridge Ancient History. 13. p. 708. ISBN 9780521302005.
  5. ^ 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)."
  6. ^ Robert L. Montgomery, The Lopsided Spread of Christianity: Toward an Understanding of the Diffusion of Religions (Greenwood Publishing Group 2002), p. 27
  7. ^ a b Sebastian P. Brock, "Ephrem and the Syriac Tradition" in Frances Young, Lewis Ayres, Andrew Louth (editors), The Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature (Cambridge University Press 2004), Volume 1, p. 362
  8. ^ Montgomery (2002), pp. 27, 57
  9. ^ Wilhelm Baum and Dietmar W. Winkler, The Church of the East: A concise history (Routledge 2003), pp. 5, 30
  10. ^ Moosa, Matti. The Maronites in history. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1986
  11. ^ Brian Albert Gerrish, Faith: Dogmatics in Outline (Presbyterian Publishing Corp 2015), p. 152
  12. ^ Wilhelm Baum and Dietmar W. Winkler, The Church of the East: A concise history (Routledge 2003), pp. 151−152
  13. ^ Aidan Nichols, Rome and the Eastern Churches: A Study in Schism (Ignatius Press 2010), footnote 98
  14. ^ Metropolitan Bishoy, "The Assyrian Churches"
  15. ^ Marijke Metselaar-Jongens, Defining Christ: The Church of the East and Nascent Islam (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam 2016), p. 79
  16. ^ B.M. Thomas, "The St Thomas Christians and their East Syrian Connection: Sources and conclusions" (Federated Faculty for Research in Religion and Culture, Kottayam 2015), p. 3
  17. ^ Chaillot, Christine. "The Syrian Orthodox Church Of Antioch And All The East. Geneva: Inter-Orthodox Dialogue 1998
  18. ^ Donabed, Sargon (2015). Reforging a Forgotten History: Iraq and the Assyrians in the Twentieth Century. Edinburgh University Press. p. 18. ISBN 978-0-7486-8605-6.
  19. ^ Steven K. Ross, Roman Edessa: Politics and Culture on the Eastern Fringes of the Roman Empire, 114 - 242 C.E. (Routledge c2000), p. 49
  20. ^ Adrian Fortescue, The Lesser Eastern Churches (Catholic Truth Society 1913), p. 23
  21. ^ T.V. Philip, East of the Euphrates: Early Christianity in Asia


External links

Antiochian Catholic Church in America

The Antiochian Catholic Church in America (ACCA) is an Independent Catholic Church. What sets the ACCA apart from most such Churches is that it espouses the theology and embraces many distinctive practices of the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Indian Orthodox Church, from which the clergy of the ACCA claim to derive apostolic succession primarily via the lineage of René Vilatte. The orders of the ACCA are also derived from the Old Catholic movement, in this case by way of Arnold Mathew. The ACCA, however, is not in communion with any of the Oriental Orthodox Churches. It ordains women to the diaconate and does not require celibacy of its bishops, allowing them, like priests and deacons, to marry. The ACCA states that its approach to theology and practice is a process of "critical reappropriation" which is open to influences from all sectors of trinitarian Christianity but is, at the same time, rooted in the Syriac Christian tradition, particularly with regard to such foundational matters as Christology (miaphysitism), soteriology, ecclesiology, and Christian ethics.

The see city of the ACCA is Knoxville, Tennessee. It is led by a metran, or archbishop, Victor Mar Michael Herron. Herron, consecrated bishop in 1991, assumed the office of metran in 1996 upon the retirement of his predecessor and consecrator, Gordon Mar Peter Hurlburt. Herron is assisted by a suffragan bishop, Andreas Mar Cassian Turner.

Turner is the chancellor of the ACCA. Avva Gregory Ned Blevins is the ACCA's Ecumenical and Social Concerns Representative. Amma Caitlin Turner is an itinerant missionary throughout the southeastern United States.

East Syriac Rite

The East Syriac Rite or East Syrian Rite, also called Assyrian Rite, Persian Rite, Chaldean Rite, or Syro-Oriental Rite is an Eastern Christian liturgical rite that uses the East Syriac dialect as its liturgical language. It is one of two main liturgical rites of Syriac Christianity.It originated in Edessa, Mesopotamia, and was historically used in the Church of the East (Nestorianism), the largest branch of Christianity which operated primarily east of the Roman Empire, with pockets of adherents as far as South India, Central and Inner Asia and strongest in the Sasanian Empire. The rite remains in use in Nestorian churches descended from it, namely the Assyrian Church of the East (including the Chaldean Syrian Church of India) and the Ancient Church of the East, as well as in the Chaldean Catholic and Syro-Malabar Catholic churches which are now Eastern Catholic in full communion with the See of Rome.


Garshuni or Karshuni (Syriac alphabet: ܓܪܫܘܢܝ, Arabic alphabet: كرشوني) are Arabic writings using the Syriac alphabet. The word "Garshuni" was used by George Kiraz to coin the term "garshunography", denoting the writing of one language in the script of another.

Mor (honorific)

Mor (vernacular pronunciation) or Mar (from Classical Syriac: ܡܪܝ‎ Mār(y), written with a silent final yodh) is a title of respect in Syriac, literally meaning 'my lord'. It is given to all saints and is also used before Christian name of bishops. The corresponding feminine form given to women saints is Mart or Mort (Syriac: ܡܪܬܝ‎, Mārt(y)). The title is placed before the Christian name, as in Mar Aprem/Mor Afrem (Ephrem the Syrian) and Mart/Mort Maryam (Mary, mother of Jesus).

The variant Maran or Moran (Syriac: ܡܪܢ‎, Māran), meaning "Our Lord", is a particular title given to Jesus, either alone or in combination with other names and titles. Likewise, Martan or Mortan (Syriac: ܡܪܬܢ‎, Mārtan, "Our Lady") is a title of Mary, mother of Jesus.

Occasionally, the term Maran or Moran has been used of various Eastern Christian patriarchs and catholicoi. The Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, the Malankara Orthodox Catholicos use the title Moran Mor. Sometimes the Indian bearers of this title are called Moran Mar, using a hybrid style from both Syriac dialects that reflects somewhat the history of Syrian Christians in Kerala. The Pope of Rome is referred to as Mar Papa by the Saint Thomas Christians of India.

The obscure variant Marya or Moryo (Syriac: ܡܪܝܐ‎, Māryā) is used in the Peshitta Old Testament to render the Tetragrammaton. Although this word is clearly a derived form of the above, there is a fanciful derivation found in early Syriac lexica, that the word is an initialism as follows:

ܡ — ܡܪܘܬܐ, māruṯā, 'lordship'

ܪ — ܪܒܘܬܐ, rabbuṯā, 'majesty'

ܝ ܐ — ܐܝܬܝܐ, iṯyā, 'self-existence'In Mishnaic Hebrew through to date this Aramaic word is pronounced [mar] (Hebrew: מָר‎), and it is used as a formal way of addressing or referring to a male person. In the Gemara, Tabyomi is sometimes referred to as Mar. "Mar" was also the title of the Exilarch (leader of the Jewish diaspora community in Babylon), with the Aramaic-speaking Jews sharing many cultural attributes with the Syriac Christians. In the Modern Hebrew of contemporary Israel, "Mar" is used without distinction for any male person, like "Mr." in English. However, in Rabbanical circles of Jews from the Middle East, the Aramaic variant form מָרָן (Maran, Aramaic: our lord) is still a title to used for highly appreciated Rabbis, such as Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of the Shas party.

Psalm 116

Psalm 116 is the 116th psalm of the biblical Book of Psalms. And the fourth psalm in the “Egyptian Hallel”. In the Greek Septuagint version of the bible, and in its Latin translation in the Vulgate, this psalm is Psalm 114 and 115 in a slightly different numbering system.


Qyamta or the Season of Resurrection is the fourth liturgical season in the East Syriac Rite. The weeks of Great Resurrection begin on Resurrection Sunday and run to the feast of Pentecost.

The East Syriac Church celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ during these seven weeks: Jesus’ victory over death, sin, suffering and Satan. It is the season where they exult in the new life obtained through the Resurrection of the Saviour. The church also commemorates various events happened after resurrection of Christ such as the visits of Jesus to Apostles and the ascension of Jesus. According to Eastern Christianity, the feast of resurrection is the most important and the greatest feast in the liturgical year. Therefore, the season commemorating the resurrection of Christ also gets a prime importance in the church liturgy. The first week of this season is celebrated as the "Week of weeks" as it is the week of resurrection of Christ.

Feasts celebrated during the period:

Feast of the Resurrection of Christ

Feast of all confessors (Saints) on first Friday of Qyamta

New Sunday or St. Thomas Sunday on second Sunday of Qyamta

Feast of Ascension of Jesus on sixth Friday of Qyamta

Sawma Rabba

The season of Sawma Rabba begins 50 days before Easter on Peturta Sunday and comprises whole period of Great Lent and culminates on Resurrection Sunday.

During these weeks the faithful reflect on and meditate over the public life of Jesus and especially on its culmination in his passion, death and burial. Word Peturta in Syriac means "looking back" or "reconciliation". It is a God-given time for turning to one’s own life more deeply and to become convinced of the abundant blessings of the loving God – the creation, the providential caring, the human fall, the helplessness of man to save himself, the promise of salvation, the redemption through His Son Jesus and the Passion of the Christ.

Faithful enter the weeks of Great Fast, celebrating the memory of all the Faithful Departed on the last Friday of Denha. According to the ecclesial and liturgical vision of this tradition, the weeks of Great Fast is also an occasion to keep up the memory of the beloved Departed through special prayers, renunciation, almsgiving, and so on and thus prepare oneself for a good death and resurrection in Jesus Christ. During the fast faithful of Syro Malabar Church do not use meat, fish egg many dairy products and most favorite food items and also avoid sexual contacts on all days including Sundays and Feast days. Before European colonisation Nasranis used to take only food on once in a day (after 3:00PM) on all days during Great Fast.

Feasts in Lenten Season

Peturta Sunday on First Sunday of Great Fast

Ash Monday or Clean Monday on first day(Monday) of Great Fast

Lazarus Friday on sixth Friday of Great Fast

Oshana Sunday on Seventh Sunday of Great Fast

Thursday of Pesha

Friday of Passion or Good Friday

Great Saturday or Saturday of lightFollowing feasts comes in the Lenten Season always

Feast of Mar Cyril of Jerusalem (March 18)

Feast of Saint Joseph (March 19)

Feast of Annunciation (March 25)


Slihe or the Weeks of Apostles starts on the feast of Pentecost, the fiftieth day after Resurrection Sunday. During this season, the East Syriac Church commemorates the inauguration of the church and the acts of the apostles and church fathers, through which the foundation of church is laid.. The church meditates on the virtues of the early church like fellowship, the breaking of bread together, the sharing of wealth, and the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit. The spread of church around the world as well as its growth is also remembered during this season.

Feasts celebrated during the season:

Feast of Pentecost on first Sunday of Slihe

Feast of Friday of Gold: The commemoration of the first miracle of the Apostles done by Saint Peter.These feasts are also commemorated in the season of Slihe:

Feast of Mar Aphrem

Feast of Apostles Peter and Paul

Feast of Mar Thomas, founding father of the East Syriac churches


Syriac may refer to:

Syriac language, a dialect of Middle Aramaic

Syriac alphabet

Syriac (Unicode block)

Syriac Supplement

Neo-Aramaic languages also known as Syriac in most native vernaculars

Syriac Christianity, the churches using Syriac as their liturgical language

West Syriac Rite, liturgical rite of the Syriac Orthodox Church, and the Syriac Catholic Church

East Syriac Rite, liturgical rite of the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Chaldean Catholic Church

Assyrian people (Syriacs)

Suriyani Malayalam, dialect of Malayalam influenced by Syriac

Syriac Assembly Movement

Syriac Assembly Movement (Arabic: حركة تجمع السريان) (formerly Syriac Independent Gathering Movement) is a political party in Iraq. It currently holds the reserved Christian seat in the Ninawa Governorate council.

Syriac language

Syriac (; ܠܫܢܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܐ Leššānā Suryāyā), also known as Syrian/Syriac Aramaic, Syro-Aramaic or Classical Syriac, is a dialect of Middle Aramaic of the Northwest Semitic languages of the Afroasiatic family that is written in the Syriac alphabet, a derivation of the Aramaic alphabet. Having first appeared in the early first century CE in Edessa, classical Syriac became a major literary language throughout the Middle East from the 4th to the 8th centuries, preserved in a large body of Syriac literature. Indeed, Syriac literature comprises roughly 90% of the extant Aramaic literature. Syriac was once spoken across much of the Near East as well as Anatolia and Eastern Arabia. Syriac originated in Mesopotamia and eventually spread west of Iraq in which it was became the lingua franca of the region during the Mesopotamian Neo-Assyrian period. During the establishment of the Church of the East in central-southern Iraq, speakers of Syriac split into two; those who followed the Eastern Syriac Rite and those who followed Western Syriac Rite. Syriac was the lingua franca of the entire region of Mesopotamia and the native language of the peoples of Iraq and surrounding regions until it was spread further west of the country to the entire Fertile Crescent region, as well as in parts of Eastern Arabia, becoming the dominant language for centuries, before the spread and replacement with Arabic language as the lingua franca. For this reason, Mesopotamian Iraqi Arabic being an Aramaic Syriac substratum, is said to be the most Aramaic Syriac influenced dialect of Arabic, sharing significant similarities in language structure, as well as having evident and stark influences from other ancient Mesopotamian languages of Iraq, such as Akkadian, Sumerian and Babylonian. Mesopotamian Arabic dialects developed by Iraqi Muslims, Iraqi Jews, as well as dialects by Iraqi Christians, most of whom are native ethnic Syriac speakers. Today, Syriac is the native spoken language of millions of Iraqi-Chaldo-Assyrians living in Iraq and the diaspora, and other Syriac-speaking people from Mesopotamia, such as the Mandaean people of Iraq. The dialects of Syriac spoken today include Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, Chaldean Neo-Aramaic, and Mandaic.The Old Aramaic language was adopted by the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911–609 BC) when the Assyrians conquered the various Syro-Hittite states to its west. The Achaemenid Empire (546-332 BC), which rose after the fall of the Assyrian Empire, also retained Old Aramaic as its official language, and Old Aramaic remained the lingua franca of the region. During the course of the third and fourth centuries AD, the inhabitants of the region began to embrace Christianity. Because of theological differences, Syriac-speaking Christians bifurcated during the 5th century into the Church of the East, or East Syrians under Sasanian rule, and the Syriac Orthodox, or West Syrians under the Byzantine empire. After this separation, the two groups developed distinct dialects differing primarily in the pronunciation and written symbolisation of vowels. The modern, and vastly spoken, Syriac varieties today include Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, Chaldean Neo-Aramaic and Turoyo, among others, which, in turn, have their own subdialects as well.Along with Latin and Greek, Syriac became one of "the three most important Christian languages in the early centuries" of the Common Era. From the 1st century AD, Syriac became the vehicle of Syriac Christianity and culture, and the liturgical language of the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Maronite Church, and the Church of the East, along with its descendants: the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Assyrian Church of the East, the Ancient Church of the East, the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, the Syriac Catholic Church, and the Assyrian Pentecostal Church.

Syriac Christianity and language spread throughout Asia as far as the Indian Malabar Coast and Eastern China, and was the medium of communication and cultural dissemination for the later Arabs and, to a lesser extent, the Parthian Empire and Sasanian Empire. Primarily a Christian medium of expression, Syriac had a fundamental cultural and literary influence on the development of Arabic, which largely replaced it towards the 14th century. Syriac remains the sacred language of Syriac Christianity to this day.

Syriac literature

Syriac literature is the literature written in Classical Syriac, the literary and liturgical language in Syriac Christianity.

Early Syriac texts still date to the 2nd century, notably the Syriac Bible and the Diatesseron Gospel harmony. The bulk of Syriac literary production dates to between the 4th and 8th centuries.

Syriac literacy survives into the 9th century, but Syriac Christian authors in this period increasingly write in Arabic.

The emergence of spoken Neo-Aramaic is conventionally dated to the 13th century, but there are a number of authors that continue to produce literary works in Syriac in the later medieval period,

and literary Syriac (ܟܬܒܢܝܐ Kṯāḇānāyā) continues to be in use among members of the Syriac Orthodox Church.

Syriac sacral music

Syriac sacral music is music in the Syriac language as used in the liturgy of Syriac Christianity.

Historically it is best known from and important for its part in the development of Christian sacred music since Antiquity.

The Syriac Churches have a musical system based on ancient principals today known as maqam, there are eight maqams used in the church and these are known as kadmoyo (maqam bayati, maqam ussak), trayono (maqam huseini), tlithoyo (maqam segah, maqam nahawand, maqam kurd), rbi'oyo (maqam rast), hmishoyo (maqam huzam), shtithoyo (maqam ajam), shbi'oyo (maqam saba) and tminoyo (maqam hijaz) (in order from one to eight). The most predominant works of the Syriac Church's music was collected in an anthology named Beth Gazo (Psalms of the Treasury of Maqams). There are also musical psalms other than this repertoire of 700 psalms, among them are the Fenqitho of the Syriac Orthodox and Maronite Churches, as well as the Khudra of the Church of the East.

Syriac studies

Syriac studies is the study of the Syriac language and Syriac Christianity. A specialist in Syriac studies is known as a Syriacist. Specifically, British, French, and German scholars of the 18th and 19th centuries who were involved in the study of Syriac/Aramaic language and literature were commonly known by this designation, at a time when the Syriac language was little understood outside Assyrian, Syriac Christian and Maronite Christian communities. In Germany the field of study is distinguished between Aramaistik (Aramaic studies) and Neuaramaistik (Neo-Aramaic (Syriac) studies).

At universities Syriac studies are mostly incorporated into a more 'general' field of studies, such as Eastern Christianity at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Aramaic studies at the University of Oxford and University of Leiden, Eastern Christianity at Duke University, or Semitic studies at the Freie Universität Berlin. Most students learn the Syriac language within a biblical studies program. Conferences for Syriac studies include the Symposium Syriacum, the Section "Bible and Syriac Studies in Context" at the International Meetings of the Society of Biblical Literature, and the Section "Syriac Literature and Interpretations of Sacred Texts" at the Annual Meetings of the Society of Biblical Literature.Syriac academic journals include the annual Oriens Christianus (Wiesbaden) and Syriac Studies Today.

Syrian chant

Syrian chant is the chant used in Syriac Christianity.

As Syria was one of the earliest centers of Christianity, its style of chant is among the oldest in the world. However, as no early musical manuscripts exist, it is conjectural to what extent the modern repertoire reflects the early traditions.

In the early church, the music consisted of hymns and antiphonal psalmody. The earliest extant work is the Gnostic Psalter of the 2nd century, a collection of Psalm texts in hymn form reflecting a Gnostic theology. The first orthodox work are the hymns of Ephrem the Syrian (306–373), some of which are still used today. Both hymns and antiphonal psalmody were brought by St. Ambrose to Milan and are apparently the basis for Ambrosian chant.

Modern Syrian chant is much more rhythmic and syllabic than Gregorian chant.

Thaddeus of Edessa

According to Eastern Christian tradition, Thaddeus of Edessa (Syriac: ܡܪܝ ܐܕܝ, Mar Addai or Mor Aday, sometimes Latinized Addeus) was one of the seventy disciples of Jesus. He is possibly identical with Thaddaeus, one of the Twelve Apostles. From an early date his hagiography is filled with legends and fabrications. The saint himself may be entirely fictitious.


Turmanin (Arabic: ترمانين‎) is a town in northern Syria, administratively part of the Idlib Governorate, located north of Idlib. Nearby localities include al-Dana and Sarmada to the southwest, Darat Izza to the northeast and Atarib to the south. According to the Syria Central Bureau of Statistics, Turmanin had a population of 10,394 in the 2004 census.The town is notable for the ruins of an ancient basilica in its vicinity. The Basilica, built around 480 AD, was an important influence on later church architecture, and operated as a monastery and a hospice that was noted for its care for the dying. Recently, the town came under the control of Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army.

West Syriac Rite

The West Syriac Rite or West Aramean Rite, also called Syro-Antiochian Rite, is an Eastern Christian liturgical rite that uses the Divine Liturgy of Saint James in the West Syriac dialect. It is one of two main liturgical rites of Syriac Christianity. It is chiefly practiced in the Syriac Orthodox Church and churches related to or descended from it. It is part of the liturgical family known as the Antiochian Rite, which originated in the ancient Patriarchate of Antioch. It has more anaphoras than any other rite.

The rite is practised in the Syriac Orthodox Church, an Oriental Orthodox body; the Syriac Catholic Church, an Eastern Catholic Church in full communion with the Holy See; to a great extent in the Maronite Catholic Church, another Eastern Catholic body. A regional variant, the Malankara Rite, developed in the Malankara Church of India, and is still practised in its descendant churches.

West Syriac liturgical rites

West Syriac liturgical rites, also known as West Syrian, Jacobite, or Antiochene liturgical rites, are the liturgical rites practiced by churches following the West Syriac tradition of Syriac Christianity. These rites developed out of the ancient Antiochene Rite of the Patriarchate of Antioch, adapting the old Greek liturgy into Syriac, the language of the Syrian countryside.West Syriac liturgies represent one of the major strains in Syriac Christianity, the other being the East Syriac Rite, the liturgy of the Church of the East and its descendants. Distinct West Syriac liturgies developed following the Council of Chalcedon (451), which largely divided the Christian community in Antioch into Melkites, who supported the Emperor and the Council and adopted the Byzantine Rite, and the non-Chalcedonians, who rejected the council and developed an independent liturgy – the West Syriac Rite. An independent West Syriac community that grew around the monastery of Saint Maron eventually developed into the Maronite Church, which uses its own Maronite Rite. A variant of the West Syriac Rite, the Malankara Rite, developed in the Malankara Church of India and is still used in its descendant churches.

Syriac Christianity
West Syriac, legacy of
the Patriarchate of Antioch
East Syriac, legacy of
the Church of the East
(the "Nestorian Church")
(active 4th century–1552)
Saint Thomas Christians,
legacy of
the Malankara Church
(active 1st century–1601)
in India
Key figures
See also
Syriac script
By country

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