The Chaldean Church of the East – Lecture 4B

November 9, 2007

The Chaldean Church of the East (1st – 4th) Century

PART TWO: 2nd & 3rd Centuries

By: Fr. Felix Shabi



  1. A) Christianity of Mesopotamia under Persian Empire,
  2. B) Church of Missions,
  3. C) Sons and Daughters of Covenant.


– Summary of the 1st lesson: In the first lecture, we had a glimpse over the history of our “Chaldean Church of the East” through the 1st century. We have seen how the beginning of Christianity in our homeland Mesopotamia was and the different possibilities for Christianity to enter this land. Four Apostles evangelized our lands: Sts. Thomas, Addai, Ajjai, and Mari. At the end of the first century we have the idea clear about having the first Christian Chaldean community established by St. Mari around the year 75-80 A.D., and our Chaldean Mass of ADDAI and MARI comes from the hands of these two Apostles as well!


A) Christianity under the Persian Empire: Christianity flourished in the Persian Empire under the rule of the Parthians in the first two centuries, from the first until the beginning of the third century, until 224 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 Al-Qadissiya Battle, February 19, 636 A.D.


The Sassanid, seeing Christians are increasing in front of their pagan believes inZoroastrianism: a religion based on the teachings ascribed to the prophet Zoroaster ‘Zarathustra, Zartosht’. Mazdaism is the religion that acknowledges the divine authority of Ahura Mazda, proclaimed by Zoroaster to be the one uncreated Creator of all ‘God’ (WIKIPEDIA) started fighting and persecuting the Christians. Some of their kings where somehow tolerant, while others were anti-Christians especially when people of high class were converting to Christianity. The penalty was the death for both converter and the preacher or teacher! With this Sassanid dynasty hard ruling, the “Chaldean Church of the East” survived and spread, and few things should be mentioned:

  1. a) the name “Persian Church” was so obvious and required;
    the ties to the west -especially Rome- became looser because of the continues wars between the west (Roman Empire) and the east (Persian Empire);
    before the Persian Empire ends ruling, the missionaries of our church took Christianity to the heart of China.


As we have seen earlier that St. Mari established the church in Babylon (Seleucia-Ctesiphon); another two Christian groups were found later in Mesopotamia.


1- Arbela- Arbel-(Erbil): a kingdom -like Edessa- on the Persian boarder, in the land of Assyria was Adiabene (ܚܕܲܝܵܒ، حدياب) 50 miles east of the Tigris River. A theory states the existence of a Jewish Christian mission that expanded in whole Asia. Local Christian tradition, instead, states that two disciples of St. Addai (AJJAI & MARI) evangelized the city of Arbela. “The Chronicle of Arbela” a 6th century history reference states that “ADDAI himself ordained the 1st bishop of Adiabene, a man named Pqidha in 104 A.D.” A Zoroastrian converted after seeing a miracle performed by St. ADDAI who came from Edessa. Semsoun, the 2nd bishop according to this book is the 1st martyr for the church of Adiabene (under Persians), around 117 A.D. while the 1st martyrs in Edessa (Sharbil, Babai, Barsamya) were around 112 (under Romans). Whatever are the ideas, we have remarkable start for Christianity in our Lands from the 1st and 2nd centuries.


2- Western -Greek- Christians from the exile: with the coming of the new Sassanide Empire, a series of unfinished wars started with the Roman Empire. King Shapur I (241-272) was tolerant with Christians; he helped the progress of the new religion indirectly by capturing Christians and exiling them to Babylon. In his time, he captured 3 Roman Emperors and brought them at his feet! Among the captured Christians we find the Patriarch of Antioch “Dimitry” who was exiled to southern Babylonia. Other Christians were captured from Arabstan and Armenia, etc. These Christians lived generally in peace, far from any persecution; they were a helping factor to spreading Christianity in our lands. From that time we have hymns in our Chaldean liturgy that belongs to them such as: “You have changed countries, but not your Lord” and the Trisagion: “Holy God” “ܩܕܝܫܐ ܐܠܗܐ”  ܘ“ܐܬܪܐ ܘܐܬܪܐ ܫܢܝܬܘܢ ܘܡܢ ܡܪܟܘܢ ܠܐ ܫܢܝܬܘܢ”

The Palace of Khosrow-Kissra, the most famous of all Sasanian monuments and a landmark in the history of architecture. Was build by the Christians exiled from the west. It is on the east bank of the Tigris below Baghdad, at (Madā’en) is usually associated with the name of Ctesiphon, which lie, immediately to the north of Asbanbar and is another of the cities which made up the multiple complex of Mada’en (Kookhi). Situated near the modern settlement of Salman Pak. This arch is the legendary throne hall of the Sasanian king of kings Shapur I.


B) Church of Missions: Missionary and Asceticism:

Two different activities walked together in the history of the Chaldean Church of the East. In Egypt, asceticism meant to leave the world and live alone. In Mesopotamia, asceticism was connected with the spirit of spreading gospel because of trade and travel nature of this land and people. In the book, “Gospel of Thomas”, we find his call to the faithful: “Become wanderers,” a call for mission? First missionaries were: THOMAS, ADDAI, AGGAI, and MARI. The Christianity in the 2nd century reached far targets such as: “Edessa, Nisibin, Arabia, Mesopotamia, Persia, Assyria, Media, Armenia, Babylonia, lands of Caspian Sea, India, Asia minor (Turkey), and central Asia (Bactria-Afghanistan 196 A.D.).” some missionaries were refugees fleeing from the Persian persecutions into India.


C) Sons and Daughters of Covenant: it was an organization that prepared for the asceticism in our church. Extreme asceticism lead to the idea of considering every material thing as evil like: marriage, using water instead of wine for the Mass. Thus this movement of special people who like to live harder life started in the 3rd century. It was a company of totally committed, celibate, single, those who take the vow to be warriors of God against: world, flesh, and the devil. They were called: “Singleness- متوحدين-ܝܑܚܝܕܝ̈ܐ” in the 4th century this movement became popular but somehow extremist. St. Ephrem writes about them in sadness describing ascetics with unflattering realism.