Contemporary Chaldeans and Assyrians:
One Primordial Nation, One Original Church
by the Most. Rev. Sarhad Jammo, Ph.
Ethnicity, Culture and Religion
Christianity entered Mesopotamia from the beginning of the Christian era,
and many natives of that land became Christians. Around 634 A.D., Moslem
Arabs conquered the region, and Islam was imposed as the religion of
the state, and became gradually thereafter the religion of the majority;
the Arabic language and culture became as well the language and culture
of the majority. Christians remained what they were, i.e. the descendants
of those ancient inhabitants of Mesopotamia and the heirs of their cultural
heritage. Therefore, present-day Chaldeans and Assyrians are precisely
that: ethnically, they are the descendants of the ancient inhabitants
of Mesopotamia; culturally, they are the heirs of their Aramaic language
To be accurate from the start, I must add this clarification:
1) the first wave of converts to Christianity in Mesopotamia have surely
included a segment of the sizable Jewish diaspora of the land;
2) the wars between Persia and Rome resulted sometimes in moving some Christian
captives from Roman land to Persian-ruled land, specifically the city of
Gundisapur in 'Ylam at the eastern bank of today's Shatt-il-Arab.
These remarks indicate two ingredients in the formation of early Mesopotamian
Christianity, that have merged gradually into the general Christian population.
But we can state quite accurately that the hard and large core of that
early Christianity was formed from the common population of contemporary
Therefore, if we pose again the question: Who are the actual Christians
of Iraq, i.e. the Chaldeans; the Assyrians, as well as the Syrians, from
the civil point of view? The answer should be: They are the descendants
of the ancient inhabitants of Mesopotamia. To the question: What is their
ethnic and cultural background? Then, I would answer: Study the history
of Ancient Iraq; because that same history is their history; that same
culture is their culture; that same Aramaic language is their language.
stele of King Neram-Seen
THE PEOPLES OF MESOPOTAMIA
THE SUMERIANS— The history of
Ancient Iraq is truly an epic of human endeavor. In 3000
B.C., Sumerians pioneered major discoveries and inventions.
They are the inventors of the first system of writing,
the founders of the first school, the pioneers of mathematical
principles and calculations. From them sprang the first
astronomers and astrologers; the first legislature and
jurisprudence; the first library and the first pharmacy;
the first prose and the first poem; the first irrigation
system and the first city plan; the first principles
of morality and the first attempt at theology through
mythology; the first parliament and the first city-state.
The Surnerians are those who made Mesopotamia the Cradle
THE AKKADIANS— Even though the
presence of a culture different from the Sumerian is noticeable
some centuries prior to the emergence of Sargon the Akkadian
(2371-2316 B.C.), it was this great king that effected
the turning point in asserting the Akkadian prominence
It was King Sargon I who unified the Land between the Two Rivers, including
the cities of Ashur and Nineveh in the North, and expanded his rule to
Upper Mesopotamia into Syrian land. Therefore, he is the founder of the
first world empire. Nevertheless, the location of the capital city of Akkad
is, until the present day, the best guarded secret of Ancient Mesopotamia.
Among his children was King Neram-Seen (2291-2251 B.C.), who raised the
Star of Akkad to its peak, expanding his empire to the north and east.
But soon after, Barbarians from the northeastern mountains, the Gootians,
descended and destroyed the Akkadian cities (2211-2120 B.C.)., until a
Sumerian King of Uruk, Auto Hikal, mustered enough force to chase and destroy
their power, reviving for the span of more than a century the Sumerian
rule (2113-2006 B.C.), making Ur the capital city, until the fading of
Sumerian control in 2006 B.C.
IMMIGRANTS AND SETTLERS— The following
century (2006-1894 B.C.) was characterized by the immigration
of a wave of Arnmorites from West of the Euphrates, that
came and settled in the plains between the Two Rivers,
where they established several small kingdoms in the Cities
of Essen, Larsa and Ishnuna, until the establishment in
Babel of a new dynasty.
The Swing of Power in Ancient Mesopotamia
1) 1894-1598 B.C.— Babylon, since
1894 B.C., with the Ammorite King Somu 'yrn, will remain
the principal and capital city of Mesopotamia until 1157
B.C., when it was destroyed by the Ilamites. Hammurabi
was the most famous king of this dynasty (1793-1751 B.C.),
ruling all of Mesopotamia.
2) 1595-1157 B.C.— Kyshies from
the Zagrus mountains ruled in Babylon, forging strong
alliances with Assyria against the Ilamites.
3) 1156-1025 B.C.— The city of
Issen will lead the revival of Babylon reaching a remarkable
climax with Nabu-kadh-Nassar I (1124-1103 B.C.).
Historians distinguish four periods in the history of Assyria:
1) 3000-2000 B.C.— (Old Assyrian). Assyria was under the influence
and rule of the Sumerians and Akkadians.
2) 2000-1521 B.C.— Assyria attempted autonomy and self-rule, but
could not achieve it, being under Babylonian rule, dearly at the time of
Hammurabi (1793-1751 B.C.).
3) 1521-911 B.C.— (Middle Assyrian). Bozoe Ashur III attempted to
shift the center of power from Babylon to Ashur. His successors did not always
succeed in controlling and ruling the South, particularly Babylon; nevertheless,
it became dear that the political capital of Mesopotamia was in Assyria.
4) 911-612 B.C.— (The Empire). Assyria became the superpower of the
Middle East, reaching the peak of cultural greatness, military power and
colonial expansion. Illustrious names of Kings: Ashurbanirbal, Sargon II,
Sankhareeb, Assarhadun, etc., will resound highly and eloquently all over
the Earth. The greatest of prophets, Ezekiel (31, 3-9) will speak out of
the wonders of Assyria:
"Consider Assyria, a Cedar of Lebanon, with fair branches and forest shade,
and of great height, its top among the clouds. Under its branches all the animals
of the field gave birth to the young; and under its shade all great nations lived.
The Cedars of the Garden of God could not rival it, nor the fir trees equal
its boughs; the plane trees were nothing compared with its branches; no
trees in the Garden of God was like it in beauty."
oldest map of the world with Babylon at the center.
Chaldeans 626-539 B.C.- (For best reference,
cfr. Wiseman, D.J., Chronicles of Chaldean Kings (626-556
B.C.) in the British Museum, London 1956)
Origins of the name: The name "Chaldea, Kaldu, Chaldean, Chaldeans" appears
in historical documents around 900 B.C. Then, we find the Chaldeans first
as Aramaic tribes in the neighborhood of Babylon; later they conquered
Babylon itself in 625 B.C., establishing a splendid empire, until its collapse
in 539 B.C. at the hand of Cyrus the Persian. The Chaldean empire was the
last and most glorious expression of national identity for the people of
ancient Mesopotamia, that is, before falling under the rule of foreign
powers. The fact of having Aramaic-speaking peoples in North Mesopotamia
and Syria, on the one hand, and in South Mesopotamia on the other, shows
that the Aramaic language originated in the Northwestern bank of the Euphrates
in parallel to the Akkadian language that originated in the Southeastern
banks of the Euphrates. In fact, the Chaldeans are mentioned in the book
of Job (1, 17) as somewhere close to the residence of Job himself in: ‘Aws.
In 627 B.C., Nabupalassar, with the help of Chaldean tribes became King
of Babylon, declared independence from Assyria, and allied himself with
the Medees, causing the collapse of the Assyrian empire and the fall of
Nineveh in 612 B.C.; he then expanded the rule of Babylon over all of Mesopotamia
Reconstruction of Processional Road of Ishtar
Nabu-kadh-aassar (604-562 B.C.)— The
son of Nabupalassar, became Chaldean King of Babylon. Under
1) reached the peak of its greatness and glory; Babylon, its capital, was
recognized as "the pearl of kingdoms, the jewel and boast of Chaldeans" (Isaiah,
13,19) and was proclaimed as "a golden cup in the Lord's hand that
made all the earth drunken. The nations have drunken of her wine; therefore
the nations are mad." (Jeremiah 51,7).
2) the Chaldeans, being an Aramaic people, became a major factor for the
spread of the Aramaic language and its alphabet among the peoples of the
Near East, including their Hebrew captives from Judea.
THE FALL OF BABYLON
In 539 B.C., during the reign of King Nabuna'yd, Cyrus the Persian conquered
Babylon putting an end to the Chaldean Empire and to the national rule
in Mesopotamia. The Chaldean Empire was the last national name of Mesopotamia
before falling to foreign powers. Though Mesopotamia was conquered by
foreigners, the city of Babylon remained the capital and the most illustrious
national symbol of the land. Even the Akhmanide kings added to their
title: “King of Babylon and its land”, they resided in the
same palace of Nabukadhnassar. The continuity of the Chaldean identity
persevered not only around Babylon but also in the establishment of a
Chaldean principality of'Udeini long the Euphrates (Ozoreina). KingAbgar
ruled it in 130 B.C.
When Babylon was destroyed and abandoned, a successive capitals (Seleucia,
Ctesiphon, Baghdad) were built in its vicinity as though to take its role.
Sequentially, the ecclesiastic administration of the Church of the East
will follow the same civil line: the Catholicos-Patriarch will have his
see in Seleucia-Ctesiphon, then in Baghdad, adopting the title of "Patriarch
of the See of Babylon".
ALEXANDER THE MACEDONIAN IN BABYLON
(10 June 331-323 B.C.)
Crashing Dara III in the battle of Arbelu in 331 B.C., Alexander advanced
to Babylon which he entered peacefully, and made it the capital of his
empire and his dreams, residing in the Southern Palace of Nabukadhnassar.
In 311 B.C., Seleucius I Nikator became the ruler of Mesopotamia, He is
the one who built Seleucia to substitute Babylon as the administrative
capital. Babylon, being constantly the field of warring factions, was looted
and hit several times during the rule of Seleucians until it lost its splendor,
while maintaining the magic of her name, until it fell definitely to Methredat
the Parthian in 140 B.C., who built a military camp in Ctesiphon in front
of the old Seleucia. It is to be noted that Seleucians tried to acquire
the collaboration of the local population in Babylon by granting special
status to temples and their employees and the priestly class, restituting
to them many confiscated properties. This fact resulted in a sort of revival
of ancient Babylonian culture, where natural science was mixed with divination.
That is the reason for some later Christian and Jewish authors to attribute
to the name "Chaldean" the allusion to a pagan priest and astrologer.
HISTORIC CONTEXT OF EARLY CHRISTIANITY
Roman Emperor Trajan entered Babylon in 115 B.C., while the Palace of Nabukadhnassar
was still standing, but the dty was deserted. In fact, the palace stood
until the fourth century A.D. The whole region remained generally under
Parthian rule, interrupted with Roman rule intervals, until 226 A.D.
when Ardasher, the Sassanide. killed Artaban V the last of the Parthian
Kings, and entered as conqueror of Seleucia-Ctesiphon in 224 A.D. The
Sassanides ruled Mesopotamia until the Arab conquest. The defeat of the
Persians and the victory of the Arabs has been celebrated and symbolized
in the AI-Qadissiya battle, February 19, 636 A.D.
GENERAL AND COMPREHENSIVE REMARKS
A) A first general and comprehensive conclusion should be made: "The
civilization that we are talking about is the product of Iraq in all of
its parts—northern, middle and southern. It is the summary of all
that has been achieved by the ancient Iraqis, in their different periods.
It is not easy for the contemporary scholar to distinguish between the
different element of this civilization, whether they are Sumerian or Akkadian,
Babylonian or Assyrian. It is an ancient Iraqi civilization, to which the
ancient Iraqi have contributed." (Iraq in History, Baghdad, 1983.
B) A similar second conclusion should imply that, regardless of the original
provenance of many settlers in Mesopotamia, all of them should be considered
as Mesopotamian, because they were absorbed by the culture and identity
of the land, and produced their achievement on the same land.
C) Is should be clear that the history of ancient Mesopotamia was formed
and had developed around two principal axes: Babylon, the capital of Babylonia,
in the south but closer to the middle, and Nineveh, capital of Assyria,
in the north. Early periods showed the Babylonian region playing a leading
role, followed by the rising of Assyrian dominance, with the pendulum returning
to Babylon with the Chaldean Empire.
D) While Mesopotamian cities and states, armies and kings, were battling
each other for prominence and dominance, they, in fact, had contributed
to the formation of one united civilization. That unity has been achieved
principally through the usage of one common language that became a major
unifying factor of their civilization.
THE LANGUAGES OF MESOPOTAMIA:THE IMPORTANCE OF
THE ARAMAIC LANGUAGE
Sumerian language remains a mystery, as far as its origin and possible
linguistic connections are concerned. But the Akkadian language, which
absorbed the writing system and some vocabulary of the Sumerian, is clearly
a "Semitic" language, having many similarities with
Aramaic, Arabic and Hebrew.
Akkadian mingled with Sumerian until it became the lingua franca of Mesopotamia
around 2000 B.C. Ithad two major dialects: the Babylonian and the Assyrian,
each one with three different periods. Aramaic began competing with Akkadian
and absorbing it around the beginning of 1000 B.C., and became the predominant
language of the Chaldean Empire, then moreso with the Akhemides. Nevertheless,
Akkadian remained a written language for many more centuries. If Christians
of Iraq—Chaldeans, Assyrians and Syrians—speak until the present
day the Aramaic language, it is basically for one reason: because they
are the descendants of the ancient inhabitants of Mesopotamia.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE CHALDEAN NAME
In the following centuries, leading to its adoption by Christians of Mesopotamia
to express their ethnic and cultural identity, the Chaldean nomenclature,
is based on the following reasons:
1) The Chaldean Empire is the last national self-rule by the people of
Mesopotamia. It represents the last and most illustrious glory of ancient
Mesopotamia with international repercussion through the ages. It was the
Prince Nabupalassar who led the Chaldean people, surrounding Babylon, to
infiltrate the fabulous city, then control it independently from Assyria.
2) With the Chaldean rule, the Aramaic language became
the dominant language not only of the Mesopotamian population,
but of the court and nobility as well. Though Akkadian
language continued to be used by a minority of conservative
scribes for several more centuries, Aramaic language became
gradually the most popular form of communication and writing.
3) With Chaldean rule, Babylon became the first capital
of Mesopotamia, politically, administratively and religiously.
Babylon, because of her unique splendor, became the most
illustrious symbol of Mesopotamia. For those who saw it
in the celebrated image of paganism, it was the most hated
and shameful symbol.But, for everyone else, especially
for the children of Mesopotamia, Babylon remains the symbol
par excellence of their land.
CHRISTIANITY IN MESOPOTAMIA
The Establishment of the Church of the East
Christianity spread to Mesopotamia and areas of the Persian Empire as early
as the first Christian century. Many Chaldeans and Assyrians accepted the
Gospel and gradually established the Church of the East. According to ancient
tradition, the Apostle Thomas was the first to evangelize those regions
in his journey to India, followed by Mar Addai, one of the Seventy Disciples
of the Lord, and then by Mar Man, his own disciple, both coming from the
missionary base which was established in Edessa on the border of Syria
Early in the fourth century, when Mar Papa was the Archbishop of Seleucia-Ctesiphon,
that Episcopal see of the Sassanid capital, settled its prominence among
all Episcopal sees of Mesopotamia and surrounding areas within the boundaries
of the Persian Empire, and soon became the See of the Catholicos—Patriarch
of the Church of the East. During the fourth and fifth centuries, the prominent
centers of learning for this Church of the East were Edessa and Nisibis
in Upper Mesopotamia.
At the beginning of the seventh century, prior to the Islamic conquest
of Mesopotamia (634 A.D.), about one half of the population was Christian,
following the Islamic Conquest, Islam became gradually the religion of
the majority of the population. Christians and Jews were accepted in the
Islamic state and society as "the People of the Book," and they
were organized as religious-social-and-cultural communities under their
own leaders and laws.
During the Patriarchate of Timothee the Great (780-823), when the Arab
Abbasides built Baghdad as the capital of their empire, the Patriarchal
See was transferred to Baghdad. The Abbasides turned to the Christian scholars
of the country for teaching and spreading of sciences and knowledge, especially
in (he field of philosophy, medicine, chemistry, astronomy and mathematics.
The Greek culture had been translated by the Mesopotamian Christian scholars
first to Aramaic-Syriac, then to Arabic, and eventually reached the West
CHURCH OF THE EAST: An Independent Church or an
Integral Part of a Church Catholic?
For the first four centuries of Christianity, the Church of the East considered
itself as an integral part of the Catholic, i.e., Universal, Church. In
the fifth century and later, as a consequence of political circumstances
and Christological controversies, the majority of this Church accepted
the Nestorian Christological formulas—condemned at the Ephesian Council
of 431 A.D.—as a valid expression of the common faith, thus isolating
itself from the church of the Roman Empire, and therefore was called the "Nestorian
In a millennium of isolation, the Church of the East accomplished the most
prodigious and ambitious missionary expansion of the Middle Ages, that
is between the 7th and the end of the I3th Centuries. "Nestorian" monks
spread the Gospel, together with the Aramaic alphabet and culture, among
the peoples of Khurasan, Azurbeijan, Afghanistan, Turkumanistan, Mongolia,
China, Tibet, India, Japan and the Philippines. The Stele of Si-Ngan-Fu
in China (A.D. 781) and the 611 tombstones discovered in the province of
Semiryenchensk in Southern Siberia, all inscribed in Aramaic Eslrangelo
letters, remain eloquent witnesses of the magnitude of Mesopotamian missionary
expansion and influence. The living remnant of that fervor and shared spirituality
are the three million Indians in Malabar, Kerala, who still follow the
Chaldean Rite. The Mongolian vexations and persecutions in the first half
of the 14th Century, were what decimated the children and the dioceses
of the Church of the East.
At the beginning of the 15th Century, good segments of
this glorious Church, moved by the spirit of renewal, found
the road of Rome again reestablishing the ecclesiastic
unity with the Catholic Church in 1553. Being shrunk to
their motherland in Mesopotamia, the descendants of ancient
Babylonians and Assyrians found also the awareness of their
ethnic and cultural identity, resuming the last and most
glorious of their ancestors' names: the Chaldeans. Those
who are still separated from Rome hold the name of Assyrians.
Their Church is the Assyrian Church of the East. Many members
of the Chaldean Catholic Church of Iran prefer to be called "Assyrian
Catholics" in order to express their ethnic background
as well as their attachment to their faith.
To be fair to all sides, it is right to say that both names, "Chaldeans" and "Assyrians" are
but two nomenclatures designating, from two different perspectives, the
EXCHANGE OF POSITION BETWEEN TWO PATRIARCHAL DYNASTIES
A First Phase of Communion with Rome
The period that followed the conclusion of unity agreement with Rome was
a period of bitter struggle, even bitter fight, among the children of
the Church of the East; between the camp of those who were for full ecclesiastic
and canonical communion with Rome, on one side, and the camp of those
opposing it on the other. Youhannan Sulaka, the newly elected Patriarch,
fell martyr for the cause of unity on 12 November 1555 at the hands of
agents of the Turkish Pasha of Amadia, of the opposing faction.
In regard to the movement of Catholic unity, we could distinguish three
regions in northern Mesopotamia:
1) the region of Diarbekir, Mardin and Seert. They were the center of the
2) the region of Azurbejan including Urmia, Salamas and Hekari. They were
isolated areas and distant from any communication with the Western missionaries;
3) the Nineveh region, including Rabban Hormizd Monastery, and the towns
and cities of the plain of Mosul. There was a heated struggle between the
two factions here, with the unity faction gaining ground.
After the death of Youhannan Sulaka, Mar "Abdiso" Marun succeeded
him, having his See in Diarbekir until his death in 1567. He was succeeded
by Mar Yahballaha who died in 1580. His successor, Mar Shimoun DC, the
Bishop of Gelo and Salamas, installed his See in St. John Monastery near
Salamas; the same did his successor Shimoun X, while Shimoun XI and Shimoun
XII moved the See to Urmia in the vicinity. After Shimoun IX, the heredity
system was revived again for the hierarchical succession among the successors
Mar Youhannan Sulaka 11553-1555
The seal used by
Mar Shimon Dynasty
THE SUCCESSORS OF SULAKA
While communications were very rare between the holy See and the successors
of Sulaka, a tenuous thread of ecclesiastic communion kept the canonical
unity alive, i.e. the professions of faith that each one of these Patriarchs
used to send to Rome. The last of these letters-professions-of-faith
is that of Shimoun XIII, sent to Pope Clement X in 1670, bearing the
title of "Letter of Mar Shimoun, Patriarch of Chaldeans," (Jamil,
pp. 197-200). It was this very Patriarch who moved his Patriarchal See
to Qochanis in Hekari around 1700, severing at the same time all ties
with the Roman See. Nonetheless, the title "Patriarch of Chaldeans" stayed
permanently in the seal of this Patriarch, as well as of all of his successors
bearing the name of Shimoon, until the last one: Mar Shimoon XXI Ishai.
THE ABOONA DYNASTY
At the same time, the Aboona family continued the succession of patriarchs
for the traditional patriarchal See of the East. Most of these patriarchs
adopted the name of "Elia". They resided in Alqosh, and were
buried in the Patriarchal Cemetery of Rabban Hormizd. Thus, for the period
of more than a century, the Church of the East has two dynasties of Patriarchs;
a) the dynasty of the Church of the East, remaining in the Nestorian tradition;
b) the dynasty of Y. Sulaka, gradually distancing itself from the Catholic
communion, and eventually reverting to the heredity system and ecclesiastic
independence with Shimoun XIII, right after 1670.
The Catholic movement, having lost the Sulaka's dynasty, returned back
to Diarbekir, its original center, and succeeded to gain Mar Yousif, the
Nestorian Bishop of the City, to the unity cause, then obtained for him
the recognition of the Ottoman Sultan as "Patriarch of Chaldeans" in
1677. His successors were: Yousif II, Yousif III, Yousif IV and Yousif
V. (1803-1827). For Rome, Diarbekir region with its Patriarchs was not
a satisfactory achievement. Simply, because Diarbekir could not be representative
of the Church of the East. Thus, Rome denied recognition to the last of
the Yousifs in Diarbekir.
Rome kept working for an agreement with either of the principal dynasties:
the original dynasty of the Church of the East residing in Alqosh, and
having its continuation with the Aboona family; the other residing in Qochanis,
which was the continuation of the dynasty of Mar Youhannan Sulaka. In the
end, Rome succeeded in concluding a solid agreement with Mar Youhannan
Hormizd Aboona in 1830 and recognized him as "Patriarch of Chaldeans," whose
dynasty continues until the present day with the Patriarchs of the See
of Babylon of Chaldeans. The dynasty of Qochanis continued its independent
course until today with the Patriarchs of the Assyrian Church of the East.
Mar Raphael I Bidawid AND Mar Dinkha IV
1) The children of the Church of the East, being reduced to Mesopotamia
and adjacent regions, wanted to restore their national and cultural identity-
Rome in its documents and attitude did nothing but recognize that fact,
2) the restoration of national identity focused from the beginning on two
names: Chaldean in regard to more generic and cultural elements, and Assyrian,
geographic region of later residence. The choice of denomination hesitated
for over a century between the two.
3) the title of "Patriarch of Assyrians" was first applied to
the successors of Sulaka in communion with Rome; "Patriarch of Babylon" was
used by the Aboona family to indicate the traditional dynasty of the Church
of the East. But later development reversed the application of the title.
4) The name "Chaldean" was first used by the Mesopotamian immigrants
in Cyprus, then to indicate a general belonging to a Chaldean nation. Later,
in 1670, it was used by Mar Shimoun XIII, whose official seal reads: "Mhyla
Shimoun Patriarka d-Kaldaye", and was transmitted to his successors
of the Mar Shirnoun dynasty in Qochanis. But when the Mar Yousifs, Patriarchs
of Diarbekir adopted the title of "Patriarch of Chaldeans," and
have been recognized as such by the Ottoman High Gate, it became their
prerogative. The same title was sequentially transmitted to the dynasty
of the Aboona family at the moment of their reunion with Rome.
5) When Anglicans came in touch with the independent Patriarchate of Qochanis,
it was quite convenient to use the name "Assyrian" as being different
from the one used by Catholics, even though the same term had been in usage
in the deals with Rome three centuries earlier.
A SWINGING PENDULUM BETWEEN "CHALDEAN" AND "ASSYRIAN"
In his book "An Introduction to the History of the Assyrian Church",
published in London, England in 1910, William Wigram says: "'Syrian'
to an Englishman, does not mean 'a Syriac-speaking man'; but a man of that
district between Antioch and the Euphrates where Syriac was the vernacular
once, but which is Arabic-speaking today, and which was never the country
of the 'Assyrian' Church. 'Chaldean' would suit admirably; but
it is put out of court by the fact that in modern use it means only those
members of the church in question who have abandoned their old fold for
the Roman obedience; and 'Nestorian* has a theological significance which
is not justified. Thus it seemed better to discard all these, and to adopt
a name which has at least the merit of familiarity to most friends of the
Church today." (p. VIII)
Finally, it is our conclusion and consistent position that both names are
correct and valid. The name "Assyrian" is justified:
1) It indicates the geographic region and people, where Christianity has
originated and preserved itself from apostolic times until today.
2) It indicates a great empire and civilization that dominated Mesopotamia
and the whole Middle East from almost a millennium, from 1500 B.C. until
the fall of Nineveh in 612 B.C.
3) It is specific and neat in its indication to identity. Nineveh preserved
better than other regions the continuity of Aramaic culture until recent
4) It has a biblical connotation through the story of Jonah the prophet
and his preaching to the Ninevites.
The name of "Chaldean" is justified:
1) It is the last national name reflecting Mesopotamian identity before
having the country conquered by foreigners.
2} The Chaldeans were an Aramaic people; during their rule, the Aramaic
language became the dominant language of Mesopotamia and the lingua franca
of the Middle East.
3) Babylon, or the cities around it (Seleucia-Ctesiphon & Baghdad)
was for most periods of history the administrative, cultural and symbolic
capital of Mesopotamia. In religious as well as civil history, for Christians
and pagans alike, Babylon is the most illustrious name of all.
4) Compared with the "Assyrian" name, the name "Chaldean" reflects
a more comprehensive and generic identity.
THE MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE
At the dawn of the new millennium, waking up after two centuries of the
last major ecclesiastic split of our people, we have to realize that
having established two ecclesiastic jurisdictions, within the frame of
the legacy of the Church of the East, has led gradually to the formation
of two distinct communities, each one of them having developed different
liturgical practices, as well as variant cultural and social patterns.
Therefore, to restore this Church to its primordial unity, and to bring
its Chaldean and Assyrian people to share, in a united nation, the same
heritage, and walk together toward a common destiny, will require to deal
not only with theological and ecclesiastic matters, but with cultural and
social issues as well. That is the challenge of our generation.