Info

fourth-century visitor to Edessa. This text and a sequel, the Acts of St. Mari the apostle, which records the efforts of Addai's successor, are both probably from the fourth century. A liturgical text ascribed to these two foundational figures, the Liturgy ofAddai and Mari, is a eucharistic anaphora that is still used in Syria and India as well as in Syriac Christian communities in the diaspora.2 Bardaisan, the first known Syriac Christian theologian, suggests that after the conversion of Abgar VIII (regn. c. 177-212), social policy in Edessa changed. It has been suggested, on the basis of scant evidence, that Osrohoene became perhaps the first Christian nation. During the reign of Abgar VIII, Bardaisan flourished and served to protect the city.

Jewish connections

The third theory suggests that early Christianity in Syria developed within Jewish circles, as it did within the Roman empire.3 This theory finds support in archaeological evidence, the apologetic literature against Judaism, and texts such as the Chronicle of Arbela that describes a Christian presence within the city of Arbela from about 100. It would appear that the traditions are correct in positing an Antiochene or Palestinian origin for Christianity, and certainly the Christianity that became dominant under the influence of Byzantium had its origins among converts within and fromJudaism, as did Manichaeism. The role of Judaism in the development of Marcionite and Bardaisanite communities of Christians cannot be ascertained.

Second- and third-century evidence for Christianity in northern Mesopotamia

The extant documentation for Christianity in northern Mesopotamia before the fourth century is meagre, but suggestive. The fact that this was not a period during which large-scale public churches were built, as far as we know, has led some to discount the significance of the presence of Christianity in northern Mesopotamia before the fourth century. Most likely the references to Christian churches are to be understood as house churches on the model of the synagogue and church at Dura Europos, a Roman military city on the eastern border of the empire. Such is probably the case for the reference in The chronicle of Edessa where it is noted that a 'church of the Christians' was destroyed in a flood during 312. Earlier than this, building on linguistic traditions of Jewish

2 The eucharistic prayer ofAddai and Mari, ed. and trans. Gelston.

3 Robert Murray, Symbols of church and kingdom; Jacob Neusner, Aphrahat and Judaism.

0 0

Post a comment