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Syrian Jacobite History



Why we are Syrian Orthodox Christian?

Few Christian denominations can claim the antiquity of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch, whose foundations can be traced back to the very dawn of Christianity. The Church justifiably prides itself as being one of the earliest established apostolic churches. It was in Antioch, after all, that the followers of Jesus were called Christians as we are told in the New Testament, "The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch." (Acts 11:26).

According to ecclesiastical tradition, the Church of Antioch is the second established church in Christendom after Jerusalem, and the prominence of its Apostolic See is well documented. In his Chronicon (I, 2), the church historian Eusebius of Caesarea tells us that Apostle St. Peter established a bishopric in Antioch and became its first bishop. He also tells us that St. Peter was succeeded by Evodius. In another historical work, Historia Ecclesiastica, Eusebius tells us that Ignatius the Illuminator, "a name of note to most men, [was] the second after Peter to the bishopric of Antioch" (III, 36).

In the mid of the 5th century, the Bishop of Antioch, and his counterparts in Alexandria, Byzantium and Rome, would be called patriarchs. The Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch used to be known by his own name; however, since 1293 the patriarchs of Antioch adopted the name Ignatius, after the Illuminator. The See of Antioch continues to flourish till our day, with His Holiness Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I, being the 122nd in the line of legitimate patriarchs.
The Syrian Orthodox Church was established in AD 37 by St. Peter, the chief of apostles and first patriarch of Antioch.

The Birth Of the Syrian Church


The Syrian Church started in Jerusalem consisting of the Apostles, Evangelists and converted Jews. It was later grafted in Antioch, and then Urhoy, (Edessa) with converted Arameans and other gentiles. It was established in Antioch by St. Peter the head of the Apostles, who is considered the first Patriarch of the Holy and Apostolic see of Antioch. St. Peter himself ordained St. Ephodius and St. Ignatius the Luminous as successors. They did succeeded him after he fell martyr in Rome. Antioch, thus, became not only the first, oldest and most famous Christian Church, but the base of Christendom too. It was in Antioch where the Apostles were first called Christians.

The Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch in India

Kerala (Indian) tradition is that Apostle St. Thomas established Christianity in Malankara in AD 52, and it get organized and prospered with the arrival of Knai Thoma from Syria in AD 345, which happens to be the first known colonization of Syrian Christians and as a result, the Christians of Malankara (Kerala) came to be known as Syrian Christians, as they received the Apostolic benediction from the Syrian Patriarchate and thus started to use the liturgy of the Holy Syrian Church of Antioch.  The Church in Malankara continued to be under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Antioch, and his subordinate 'Maferyono'/'Catholicose' of the East then residing in Mesopotamian region, till the arrival of Nestorian bishops in 1490.  Later with the Portuguese aggression of the 16th & 17th century, the Syrian Christians of Malankara came under the influence of Roman Catholics and when they tried to forcibly introduce their faith, the Malankara Syrian Christians revolted and finally re-organized once again under the guidance of the delegate of the Holy See of Antioch and thereby retained the ancient true Apostolic faith of Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch.  After that in the 19th century, a split occurred in the Church with the introduction of European protestant faith by the British colonists and after that in early 20th century, once again a group of people defied the Holy Church to form an independent faction after much harassment.  Even in the midst of such aggressions, the ancient Syrian Orthodox Church, which in India (Malankara) also referred to as Jacobite Syrian Christian Church, still follows the true faith taught by Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostles; and our Holy fathers who sacrificed for the cause of Christianity.  

Syrian Colonization of Malankara in AD 325

Meanwhile the Church at Malabar (Kerala) established in the 1st century, weakened during the period of about 300 years succeeding the Apostle’s death, mainly because there had been none to succeed the priests ordained by St. Thomas. It was while the Christians of Malabar remained in this unsatisfactory condition that Mor Joseph the Bishop of Edessa (a place in the eastern border of the Roman Empire), had a dream regarding the sad situation of the Church at Malabar. He informed this to the Bishop-Patriarch of Jerusalem who consulted the other Bishops as to what should be done in this matter. (It was in consideration of the importance of the Holy City of Jerusalem, the Metropolitan of Jerusalem came to be known as the 'fifth Patriarch of Christendom', who was a subordinate to the Patriarch of Antioch as mentioned in the Universal Synods).   The Jerusalem Metropolitan deputed one Thomas a native of Cana, a respectable merchant then living at Jerusalem to ascertain the condition of the Christians of Malabar. This Thomas on reaching the Malabar Coast found a good number of Christians wearing the badges of their religion and from them he ascertained about their condition. On his return he explained about the Christians at Malabar and all what he saw, to the Bishop of Jerusalem. 

Consequent to this, the Church Synod held under the Patriarch of Antioch & all the East, immediately decided to send a delegation to Malabar (Kerala) and accordingly in AD 345, around 400 odd persons from 72 families comprising men, women and children, reached Cragananore (Kodungalloore) under the leadership of the merchant, Thomas of Cana. This leads to the vast growth of christanity in this region and enlighten the educational, cultural, economical and social development.

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