Who are the Chaldeans?
Chaldean Star
Who are the Chaldeans? By: Dr. Ghassan Hanna Shathaya (1999)

The Chaldeans of Beth Nahreen (Mesopotamia which is current days Iraq, east Syria, and south east Turkey) are a live continuation of all the indigenous people of Mesopotamia whether their tribal names were Sumerians, Akkadians, Amorites, Babylonians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Aramaeans. The language of the Chaldean people is Syriac, which is essentially Aramaic (a different dialect than that spoken by Jesus Christ) with a dose of Akkadian, the original language of the Assyrian WarriorAssyrian, Babylonian and Chaldean tribes.

By the fall of the Assyrian Empire (612 B.C.) and Babylonian (Chaldean) Empire (539 B.C.), Mesopotamia and the lower valley of the Tigris-Euphrates were still predominantly pagan. With the advent of Christianity, most of the nation gradually converted, largely through the missionary works of Saints Addai and Mari. It is also historically accepted that St. Thomas the Apostle had a hand in the matter during this passage to India.

Most of Iraq remained Christian, until the advent of Islam in the mid 7th century A.D. But even in those early years, not everyone converted to Islam. There were sizable numbers of Christians and pagans, as well as Jews. One of the contributing factors to the presence of several religions may very well have been the Koran itself. The Koran speaks reverently of the Torah and the Gospel, as well as the religious significance of Christ and the Virgin Mary.

In Iraq, a turning point in Christianity took place in 431 A.D., when the patriarch of Constantinople, Nestorius, differed with the rest of the Roman Catholic Church over specific dogmas concerning Christ's personhood. (As a Western parallel, the reader may refer to the example of Martin Luther versus Catholicism.) The Eastern sector was divided as a result of this split over church principles. Some continued to follow the Nestorian thought, while others elected, in 1552 (more than eleven centuries later), to abide by the teachings of Rome.

Today, there are still thousands among the Assyrians who are Christians but not Roman Catholics. Those who are Catholics belong to what is commonly known as the "Chaldean" Church. Chaldean Artwork

Let us consider the historical perspective to better understand the use of the designation "Chaldean" for the Catholics of Iraq. In Babylon, and the Babylonian Empire, different tribes ruled at various times. Regardless of who ascended the throne, Babylon always remained the capital, also, as an empire, the term "Babylonian" remained intact.

The Assyrian Empire, especially under Sennacherib, stood indestructible for centuries. Sennacherib won every single battle he engaged in; a veritable military genius whom no one could destroy -- except Babylon. He was killed there in one of the Babylonian temples.

As history would have it, this Chaldean regime was the last to rule in Babylon. The last name of this empire was not eternally attached to the Chaldeans, therefore whoever spoke of the final state of Babylon found himself simultaneously speaking of the Chaldeans. The name "Chaldean", in this final stage, included both Babylon and Ninevah (Assyria).

It is not unusual, therefore, to think of the last vestiges of the two fallen empires as "Chaldeans" collectively, since at the final collapse, Babylon included both the lower valley and upper Mesopotamia.

The Chaldeans and Assyrians of the old were ethnically, culturally, and linguistically the same people divided along political and religious allegiances. Those tribes lived together under the last Mesopotamian national regime, that of the Chaldeans.  They were now, perforce, all "Chaldeans" in the sense that the Chaldean Empire was their final name under one nation. Babylonian/Chaldean Lion

Many races came and went with the shifts of political rule. The Chaldeans, were the natives and the original people of the Mesopotamian lands that were non-intruders. Those who came into the country to rule and establish a new homeland cannot be properly described as Chaldeans. Current days Chaldeans/Assyrians only know Iraq, that compromises majority of Mesopotamia, as their homeland, while other ethnic groups living in Iraq such as Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmen tend to trace their origins to other lands. An unfortunate reality that feeds the partial allegiance to the country, that's behind many of the political problems facing today's Iraq. 

The two names, "Chaldean" and "Assyrian", are still widely used to indicate same nation and people. In the area of religion, "Chaldean" still applies to all Chaldean Catholics of Iraq who use the Syriac language and follow the teachings of Rome. The term "Assyrian" is used to identify the followers of the Church of the East, and has been employed as a name for the Church since 1986. Chaldean Alphabet

In 1445, the then-Nestorian Church in Cyprus indicated her wishes to join Rome, the pope accepted the letter of conversion from Bishop Timothawes of the Chaldeans in Tarshish and Cyprus who wrote Pope Eugene IV identifying himself as "Bishop Timothaeus of the Chaldeans..".  On September 7, 1445, Pope Eugene IV accepted the conversion of the Chaldean community in Cyprus into Catholicism, and from then on the word "Chaldean" became the official term used to identify Chaldean Catholics by the Roman Church. Today, the Archbishop of Iraq's Chaldean Catholics goes by the official name of "The Patriarch of Babylon over the Chaldeans".

In conclusion, when in 1552 the major split in the Church of the East took place with many, in the church's homeland of Mesopotamia, converting to Catholicism, Rome simply extended the name of the Chaldean Church of Cyprus to cover all those new Catholic converts in Mesopotamia proper. That is, it followed the name used by the Nestorian Christians (descendents of the Babylonians and Assyrians of Mesopotamia) to identify themselves. Chaldean was the name of the last Mesopotamian regime, and the name used by the inhabitants of Mesopotamia to identify themselves, as well the name used by their neighbors to identify them. Assyrian continued to be used widely just as well by the people. History books speak of the usage of both Assyrian and Chaldean names to refer to the same people of Mesopotamia. The Armenians, the neighbors to the north, always used "Assyrians" to refer to the Mesopotamians, while Arabs, the neighbors to the south, used Chaldeans and Syriacs to refer to them. The Chaldean people also used the name "Suraya" which views differ to its origin. Some believing it to be a variation of Assyrian, while others believe it means Christians. In historical terms, Assyria ruled Mesopotamia for over a 1,000 years while the Chaldean regime lasted only 70 years. Assyrian Winged Bulls

The Chaldean Church consists of Middle Eastern Christians who use Syriac as their mother tongue. It is one of the eighteen Eastern Rites recognized by the Holy See in Rome. The head of the Chaldean Church today is Patriarch Mar Emanuel Delly, Patriarch of Babylon, who resides in Baghdad. Throughout the world, Chaldeans number more than one million. The greatest concentration of Chaldean Catholics today are in Mesopotamia - Iraq.

Chaldean Population in the US

There are approximately 150,000 Chaldeans in the US, in addition to another 100,000 who go by Assyrians, in addition to approximately 30,000 who go by Syriacs (Suryoyo). The centers of the Chaldeans is Metropolitan Detroit, MI (where the majority of the Chaldeans are) in addition to San Diego,  CA,  and a smaller population in Phoenix, AZ and Chicago, IL. While the Assyrians have their biggest concentration in Chicago, IL, with sizable population in San Francisco Bay Area and Turlok-Modesto (around Sacramento area) of California. The Syriacs are found more in Los Angeles area with sizable concentrations in Chicago and Detroit.  

 

Due to its importance, the following article by Bishop Dr. Sarhad Jammo is posted here. This article was published over the 12-months pages of the "Year 2000 Liturgical Calendar of St. Thomas the Apostle Chaldean Catholic Diocese in the United States".

CONTEMPORARY CHALDEANS AND ASSYRIANS
ONE PRIMORDIAL NATION
ONE ORIGINAL CHURCH

By Bishop Mar Sarhad Jammo, Ph.D.

 

Bishop Sarhad Jammo
About the Author: Bishop Sarhad Jammo was born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1941. He was ordained a priest in Rome in 1964 and returned to Iraq in 1969 to become pastor of St. John the Baptist in Dora, Baghdad from 1969-1974. During that time, a new church rectory were built for the parish. He became Rector of the Patriarchal Seminary in Baghdad from 1974-1977. Bishop Jammo has served the Chaldean catholic community in Michigan since 1977, when he was appointed Associate Pastor with Msgr. Garmo at Mother of God parish in Southfield. In 1980 he became pastor of the parish and served in that capacity until 1983. In 1983, he was assigned to be pastor of St. Joseph Chaldeans catholic Church in Troy, Michigan. During his tenure a new social hall, meeting hall, a residential rectory as well as a new church and a new office facility have been built and the old church remodeled into a cultural center. Bishop Jammo has served as Vicar General of the Chaldean Diocese in the USA from 1991 till his ordination as a bishop of the Western United States in Detroit, Michigan on July 18, 2002.  Also, in 1993 he was appointed Professor of Eastern Liturgies at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. Sumerian King 

 

Ethnicity, Culture, and Religion
Christianity entered Mesopotamia from the beginning of 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, Arabic language and culture became as well the language and culture of that 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 and heritage.

To be accurate from the start, I must add this clarification:
1) The first wave of converts to Christianity in Mesopotamia have surly included a segment of the sizable Jewish Diaspora of the land;
2) The wars between Persians and Romans resulted some times in moving some Christian captives from Roman land to Persian ruled land, specifically to the city of Gundisapur in Elam 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 in 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 cotemporary Mesopotamia.

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.

The Peoples of Mesopotamia

The Sumerians: The history of Ancient Iraq is truly an epic of human endeavor, 3000 BC, 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 spring the first astronomers and astrologers, the first legislation and jurisprudence, the first library and the first pharmacy, the first prose and the first poem, the first irrigation system, and the first city planning, the first principles of morality and the first attempt to theology through mythology, the first parliament and the first city-state. The Sumerians are those who made Mesopotamia the Cradle of Civilization.Chaldean Artwork

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 in Mesopotamia.

It was King Sargon I who unified the Land between the two Rivers, including the city of Ashur and Nineveh in the North, and expanded his rule to Upper Mesopotamia into the 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, the king Neram-Seen (2291-2251 KQ) 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 one more century the Sumerian rule (2113-2006 B.C.), making Ur the capital city, until the fading of Sumerian control 2006 B.C.

Immigrants and Settlers: The following century (2006- 1894 B.C.) was characterized by the immigration of a wave of Amorites from the West of Euphrates, that came and settled in the plains between the Two Rivers, when they established several small kingdoms in the cities of Eissen, Larsa and Ishnuna, until the establishment in Babel of a new dynasty.

THE SWING OF POWER IN ANCIENT MESOPOTAMIA

Babylonian Periods
1) (1894-1598 D.C.), Babylon, since 1894 B.C., with the Amorite King
Somu ‘ym, will remain the principal and capital city of Mesopotamia until 1157 B.C. when it was destroyed by the ‘Ilamites. Hammurabi is the most famous king of this dynasty (1793-1751 B.C.), ruling all Mesopotamia.
2) (1595-1157 B.C.), Kyshies from 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.).

Assyrian Periods
Historians distinguish four periods in the history of Assyria:
1) 3000-2000 B.C., when Assyria was under the influence and rule of the Sumerians and Akkadians.
2) 2000-1521 B.C. (Old Assyrian) when Assyria attempted autonomy and self rule, but could not achieve it, being under Babylonian rule, clearly at the time of Hammurabi (1793-1751 B.C.).
3) 1521-911 B.C. (Middle Assyrian) with Bozor Ashur III, who 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 clear that the political capital of Mesopotamia was in Assyria.Assyrian King
4) 911-612 B.C. (The Empire) when Assyria became the superpower of the Middle East, reaching the peak of cultural greatness, military power and colonial expansion.  Illustrious names of kings:
Ashurbanibal, Sargon II, Sankhareeb, Assarhadun... etc. will resound highly and eloquently all over the earth.

No better of a great prophet, Ezekiel, (31, 3-9) to speak out the wonders 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 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. I made it beautiful with its mass of branches, the envy of all the trees of Eden that were in the garden of God."

Chaldeans (626-539 B.C.)
(For best reference, cfr. Wiseman, DJ, Chronicles of Chaldean Kings (626-556 B.C.) In the British Museum, London 1956)

Origin of the name: The name “Chaldea, Kaldu, Chaldean, Chaldeans” appeared in history 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 Euphrates in parallel to the Akkadian language that originated in the southeastern bank of 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., and then he expanded the rule of Babylon over all of Mesopotamia and beyond.

Nabu-kadh-nassar (604-562 B.C.). The son of Nabupallasar became Chaldean King of Babylon. with him Mesopotamia:
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" (Isaia, 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 Aramaic language and its Alphabet among the peoples of Near East, including their Hebrew captives from Judea.

The Fall of BabylonGate of Ishtar

In 539 B.C., during the reign of King Nabuna'yd, Cyrus the Persian conquered Babylon putting and end to the Chaldean Empire and to the national rule in Mesopotamia, The Chaldean Empire was the last national name for 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 Nabukadnassar. 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). King Abgar ruled it in 130 B.C.

When Babylon was destroyed and abandoned, all 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 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 or 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 Nabukadnassar was still standing but the city was deserted. In fact, the palace stood until the fourth century A.D. The whole region area remained generally under Parthian rule1 interrupted with Roman rule intervals, until 226 AD when Ardasher, the Sassanide, killed Artaban V the last of Parthian kings, and entered as conqueror of Seleucia-Ctesiphon in 224 A.D. The Sassanides ruled
Mesopotamia until the Arab conquest The defeat of Persians and the victory of Arabs has been celebrated and symbolized in AlQadissiya 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 what 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 if 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, pp.181-182).

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) It should be clear that the history of ancient Mesopotamia was formed and had developed around two principal axis:
Babylon, capital of Babylonia, in the South but closer to the Middle, and Nineveh, capital of Assyria1 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 together in 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.Chaldean Language

THE LANGUAGES OF MESOPOTAMIA
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE ARAMAIC LANGUAGE
Sumerian language remains a mystery, as far as its origin and possible linguistic connections is 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. It had 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 with the Chaldean empire, then more so with the Akhemides. Nevertheless, Akkadian kept being 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, and 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 the Chaldean rule Babylon became the final capital of Mesopotamia, politically, administratively, and religiously. Babylon, because of her unique splendor, became the most illustrious symbol of Mesopotamia. For those who saw in it 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.Hirmizd Chaldean Monastery

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 Mari, his own disciple, both coming from the missionary base which was established in Edessa On the border of Syria and Mesopotamia.

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 the fifth century, 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 the teaching and spreading of sciences and knowledge, especially in the 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 via Spain.

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 in the Ephesian Council (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 Church".

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 end of the 13th century. "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 tomb-stones discovered in the province of Semiryenchensk in Southern Siberia, all inscribed in Aramaic Estrangelo 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.Hirmizd Chaldean Monastery

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 mother-land 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: 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 for all sides, it is right to say that both names, "Chaldeans" and "Assyrians", are but nomenclatures designating from two perspectives the same people.

Exchange of Positions between Two Patriarchal Dynasties

A first phase of communion with Rome
The period that followed the conclusion of unity agreement wilt 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. Youhanan Sulaka, the newly elected Patriarch, fell martyr for the cause of unity on 12 November 1555 by the hands of agents 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 unity movement.
2) The region of Azurbejan Induding 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, the town and cities of the plain of Mossoul, where there was a heated struggle between the two factions, 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 Yabbalaha who died in 1580. His successor, Mar Shimoun IX, 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 of Sulaka.Chaldean Catholic Patriarchs

The Successors of Sulaka
While communication 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-profession-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 all his successors bearing the name of Shimoun, until the last one: Mar Shimoun 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 had 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 independency 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.

Finalized Communion
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 one residing in Qochanis, which was the continuation of the dynasty of Mar Youhannan Sulaka. At the end, Rome succeeded in concluding a solid agreement with Mar Youhannan Hormizd Aboona in 1830 and recognized hint 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.

We summarize:
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, reflecting the geographic region of later residence. The choice of denomination hesitated for over a century between the two.
3) The title of "Patriarch of Assyrian's" 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.Assyrian Warriors
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, whom official seal reads: "Mhyla Shimoun Patriarka d-Kaldaye", and was transmitted to his successors of the Mar Shimoun 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 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" being different from the one used by Catholics, even though the same term has 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 had 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 for almost a millennium, from 1500 BC until the fall of Nineveh in 612 BC.
3) It is specific and neat in its indication to identity. Nineveh, preserved better than other regions the continuity of Aramaic culture until recent times.
4) It has a biblical connotation through the story of Jonah the prophet and his preaching to the Ninevites.

The name 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 and 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.Chaldean Flag

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 some 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 ecclesiastical matters but with cultural and social issues as well. That is the challenge of our generation.

Category of Pictures shown above. Starting from top to bottom:                                                                                                                                               

  1. An Assyrian horseman in a hunting pose. Found carved on the walls of North Palace of Ashurbanipal (668-627 BC) in Nineveh.
  2. Fashioned of color-glazed brick, this 40-foot-tall, speculative reconstruction of the fašade of Nabuchadnezzer’s (604 - 562 BC) throne room stands in a gallery of Berlin’s Vorderasiatisches Museum. The lions, perhaps symbolic of the goddess Ishtar and royalty, and portions of the border are original; their reassembly was aided by matching up coded marks made on the bricks by ancient Babylonian craftsman.
  3. Under Nabuchadnezzer, the walls of the Processional Way, which ran from the Temple of Marduck through the Ishtar Gate toward the Akitu temple, were decorated with glazed relief figures of striding lions. Height of lion is 1.05 meter.
  4. From the Assyrian King Sargon palace in Khorsabad, those 14-foot-tall winged bulls are displayed in the Khorsabad Courtyard of Louver Museum of Paris.  To facilitate their shipment from Mesopotamia to Paris, they were sawed in pieces by their discoverer, Botta.
  5. Picture of Bishop Sarhad Jammo, current Chaldean Bishop of Western states of United States of America.
  6. Statue of Gudea, ruler of Lagash (2100 BC) found in the temple of the goddess Geshtinanna at Girsu.
  7. Delicate granulated gold work frames an exquisite palm tree mosaic of semi-precious stones set in lapis lazuli. Perhaps symbolizing the Sacred Tree often depicted in Assyrian art. This eighth century-BC pendant was found in 1989 in a queen’s tAssyrian Flagomb at Nimrud, in Iraq.
  8. Two nearly symmetrical graved figures of Ashurbanipal II face a stylized Sacred Tree and are flanked by benevolent genies. Raising a pine cone in the right hand and carrying a bucket in the left, each genie performs a divine ritual giving magical protection. In this stone relief from Northwest palace at Nimrud, the king, in his role as high priest, lifts his hand in worship to the winged disk overhead, where the God Assur resides.
  9. Reconstructed Gate of Ishtar at Babylon, Iraq.
  10. An Aramaic scripture of a science book. Other details unknown.
  11. Raban (Monk) Hirmizd Chaldean Monastery in Elqosh, northern Iraq. Built around 4th century AD by the Persian Monk Hirmizd.
  12. Another picture of Raban (Monk) Hirmizd Monastery.
  13. Picture showing the past 11 Patriarchs of the Chaldean Church starting from right to left by the picture of Patriarch Youhanna Sulaka who introduced Catholicism to the followers of the Church of the East in 1552, resulting in the latter division into two sections, the Assyrian church and the Chaldean church. More information on the picture can be found at: http://www.chaldeansonline.org/prevpatr.html
  14. In the 9th century BC mounted soldiers rode in pairs so that one could control both horses while the other used his bow. Saddles and stirrups had not yet been invented. Relief from Assyrian Northwest Palace at Kahlu.
  15. Picture of the Chaldean flag.
  16. Picture of the Assyrian flag.                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Assyrian Flag

For more information on the subject, try the following links:
 One Nation-Two Names..The Chaldean/Assyrian Dilemma
 Church of the East and Its Two Halves (In Arabic)
 For Assyrian/Chaldean National Rights in Beth Nahreen
 The Chaldeans/Assyrians Under the Arab Baath Regime of Iraq
 Rebuilding Christian Churches destroyed by Saddam
 Encyclopedia Britannica: Chaldea
 Mesopotamia
 Herodotus: Babylonia, Chaldea, and Assyria..430 BC
 Catholic Encyclopedia: Chaldean Christians
 Catholic Encyclopedia: Babylonia
 Catholic Encyclopedia: Assyria


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