Who Are the Christians in the Middle East?

By Betty Jane Bailey; J. Martin Bailey | Go to book overview

The Assyrian Church of the East

The Assyrian Church of the East is one of the oldest Christian communities, tracing its origins to the witness of St. Thomas and other apostles in ancient Mesopotamia. In the early fourth century (between A.D. 300 and 310), bishops of the church were organized under a catholicos who was bishop of the Persian royal capital, SeleuciaCtesiphon. Poor political relations between Byzantium and Persia in the fourth and fifth centuries produced dire consequences for the Church of the East. The faithful already were suspect as collaborators with Christians in the Roman Empire, especially after the Edict of Milan in 313. Motivated by a sincere desire to resolve the ongoing difficulties occasioned by the church’s putative relationship to the West and not by hostility, a synod was called in 499. By canonical decree, the bishops proclaimed the Church of the East to be administratively autocephalous from the “Western” bishops, and enhanced the power and dignity of the catholicos, adding the title of patriarch.

This administrative separation from the Western bishops is notable for its lack of a theological cause of schism. Although the break later caused the Orthodox to call the church “Nestorian,” there were no doctrinal or conciliar issues involved at the time, for the separation took place prior to the Council of Ephesus and four years prior to Nestorius’s appointment to the See of Constantinople. On the contrary, the tone of the canons of the synod was laudatory and sincerely affectionate and grateful for the past help from Western bishops. That said, it is also true that the Church of the East only accepts the first two ecumenical councils and that it holds the doctrine of the separa-

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Who Are the Christians in the Middle East?
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • More Praise for This Book i
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface to the Second Edition ix
  • Our Love Affair with the Middle East- An Introduction xi
  • Part I - The Churches of the Middle East 1
  • A Western Christian Appreciation of Eastern Christianity 3
  • The Future of Christians in the Arab World 12
  • The Churches of the Middle East Now Work Together 22
  • The Importance of Jerusalem to Christians 32
  • A Timeline of Christianity in the Middle East 37
  • A Word about Numbers 44
  • Part II - Profiles of the Churches 47
  • The Origins of the Diversity of Christianity in the Middle East 49
  • The Eastern Orthodox Family 56
  • The Oriental Orthodox Family 69
  • The Catholic Family 82
  • The Evangelical (Protestant) Family 101
  • The Assyrian Church of the East 134
  • Part III - Church and State in the Middle East 139
  • A Brief History 141
  • Cyprus 145
  • Egypt 148
  • The Holy Land- Israel and Palestine 154
  • Iran 164
  • Iraq 168
  • Jordan 173
  • Lebanon 178
  • The Maghreb (North Africa) 185
  • The Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia 189
  • Sudan 195
  • Syria 199
  • Turkey 204
  • Annotated Bibliography 210
  • Index 214
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