Anthony Omahony

The term Syriac Christianity refers to the various Middle Eastern and Indian churches which belong to the Syriac tradition. Since late antiquity they have divided liturgically and doctrinally into three main groups: the Syrian Orthodox Church1 sometimes known erroneonsly as the Jacobite Church, which has rejected the doctrinal definition of the council of Chalcedon (451) and insists on the oneness of humanity and divinity in the incarnate Christ; the Church of the East,2 sometimes known wrongly as the Nestorian or Assyrian Church, which has on different grounds rejected the council of Chalcedon, essentially because it did not distinguish strictly enough between the two natures in Christ; and finally the Maronites of the Lebanon, who have come to accept the definitions of Chalcedon. Cutting across this scheme has been the creation of eastern rite Catholic churches.3 The term 'Syrian' used here to designate individual churches is thus much broader than the geographical area of modern Syria. There have long been Syrian churches in India, but they now spread over all five continents, with sizeable diaspora communities in western Europe, the Caucasian states, North and South America and Australasia. 4

1 B. Dupuy, 'L'Eglise syrienne d'Antioche des origins a aujourd'hui', Istina35 (1990), 171-88; Dupuy, 'Aux origines de l'Eglise syrienne-orthodoxe de l'Inde', Istina 36 (1991), 53-61. A classic description of the Syrian Church can be found in I. Zaide, 'L'Eglise syrienne', in DTC 14, col. 3018-88.

2 B. Dupuy, 'Essai d'histoire de l'Eglise "assyrienne" ', Istina 34 (1990), 159-76; J. F. Coakley, 'The Church of the East since 1914', Bulletin of theJohnRylands University Library of Manchester 78 (1996), 179-98. The term 'Assyrian' was made current by the Anglican missionary and writer W A. Wigram. It is, of course, inexact, as is the term 'Nestorian'. See S. P. Brock, 'The "Nestorian" Church: a lamentable misnomer', Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester 78 (1996), 23-36.

3 The Syrian Catholic Church, with its Indian offshoot known as the Syro-Malankara Church, has separated from the Syrian Orthodox Church, while the Chaldaean Church, with its Indian offshoot known as the Syro-Malabar Church, has separated from the Church ofthe East.

4 H. Teule, 'Middle Eastern Christians and migration: some reflections', Journal of Eastern Christian Studies 54 (2002), 1-23.

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