Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Chaldean or Assyrian Catholics?

Fabricating Identity: Conflicting Historical Narratives in the New Chaldean Question

The Chaldean Catholic Church is one of the longest enduring institutions in the world and its historical character is pivotal to its sacred identity. Sustaining full communion with the Holy See, the Chaldean uniate traces its antiquity and vernacular liturgy to one of the earliest Eastern Rites which arose during the Apostolic era. At present, the Chaldean Patriarchate has been the focus of momentous political discussion and controversy. In the summer of 2015, the Chaldean League was forged with the objective of propagating contemporary Chaldean identity, culture, and heritage. Nonetheless, the concept of a distinct Chaldean identity is complex as the chronology of the Chaldean uniate is challenged by conflicting historical narratives.

The concept of nationalism or national consciousness throughout the Ottoman Empire was highly discouraged. Non-Islamic confessional communities throughout the imperial realm employed denominational titles and or linguistic identities which in turn personified the respective populaces. In an effort to regulate the diverse confessional bodies within it's realm, Ottoman sovereigns introduced the millet system warranting respective millets the right to civic emancipation, a degree of autonomy, and inclusion within the imperial census. Indeed, the concept of the millet system initially denoted that of a confessional community. As a result of semantic change, by the dawn of the nineteenth century CE— the etymology defined that of nation. [1]

Having dissolved all ecclesiastical association with the so-called Nestorian Church or Church of the East— the newly emergent uniate styling itself 'Chaldean' would come to acquire an Ottoman mandate or millet recognising it's community with the misnomer in c. 1845 CE. Acclaimed scholar George Percy Badger informs us: "The community styling themselves 'Chaldean,' had not been recognized by the Ottoman Porte. This was the first recognition by the Ottoman Porte of the new community." [2] In the literary publication entitled Lectures on Foreign Churches, John Wilson argues: "The title which the Pope has given to them of 'Chaldean Christians,' they have no exclusive claim, not such a strong claim, indeed." [3] It is noteworthy, the term 'Chaldean' was unknown by the Sublime Porte. In fact, it was not common practice amongst the Catholic proselytes to self identify as such prior to this epoch— Badger asserts: "They call themselves Soorâyé, Nestorayé, and sometimes Christiané and Meshihâyé, but never Chaldâyé or Chaldani."

Learned men adhering to the Chaldean uniate, for instance the celebrated archaeologist Hormuzd Rassam, political envoy Yūsuf Malik, and scholar Hirmis Aboona thus acknowledged the Assyrian heritage of the proselyted community. Rassam informs us: "Another fact connected with the nationality of the Chaldeans which goes far to show they are as much entitled to Assyrian descent." [4] Malik maintains: "The term, 'Chaldean' was originally given to the members of the Church of the East. No one can coherently understand the Assyrians as a whole until he can distinguish that which is religion or church from that which is nation.” [5] Having mastered his doctorate in historiography from the University of Exeter, Aboona asserts: “Those who had been won over to Rome were constituted as a new entity known as Chaldean Catholics. This shattered the unity of the Assyrian community.” [6]

Translation: "Patriarch of the Eastern Assyrians at the Sacred Ecumenical Council of Trent. Approval, and profession, and letters of Cardinal Marco Antonio Da Mula, ambassador to the Holy Council of Trent. 1562." - Abdisu IV Maron and Cardinal Marco Antonio Da Mula, R.D. Patriarchae Orientalium Assyriorum De Sacro Oecumenico Tridentini Concilio, 1562 CE *

Translation: "Concerning the Patriarch of the Eastern Church of the Assyrians. Chapter 26. The Patriarch of the Assyrians swears obedience to the Roman Pontiff, especially about the cult images; from Onuphrius. It is our intention to prove that there were Assyrian observers of the cross too at this time, it is under Julius III... Once Simon Mama, the Metropolitan of all East across the Euphrates to the Indians was dead, the Church of Eastern Assyria had elected Simon Sulaka as Patriarch, a man distinguished for his Catholic faith, and had sent him to Rome for confirmation." - Roman Catholic Canon Lawyer, Bishop, and Author Simeone Maiolo, Episcopi Vvltvrariensis Historiarvm Totivs Orbis, 1585 CE **

Translation: "You have a Latin narration commended by Pope Pius IV unto the Council of Trent, concerning Abdisu Patriarch of the Assyrians, and all Churches under him, subjecting themselves to the Church and Pope of Rome. Our intended brevity will not permit the Repetition of so large a narration. Take unto you summarily those advertisements, which are proper to this cause in hand. It gives us to know, that the nation of the Assyrians was so far remote from Rome, that at Rome it was scarce known that there was any Church there." - Morton Thomas, The Grand Imposture of the (now) Church of Rome, 1628 CE

Translation: "Georgio Ebedjesu Khayyath, Assyrian-Chaldean Archbishop of Amadiyah." - Nestoriani Et Romanorum Pontificum Primatus, 1870 CE

Translation: "Documentation of relations between the Assyrians of the Eastern or Chaldean Church." - Roman Catholic Cardinal Niccolò Marini, Bessarione, 1896 CE

The late Chaldean Catholic philosopher, theologist, and Patriarch Raphaël I Bidawid informs us: “When a portion of the Church of the East became Catholic, the name given was ‘Chaldean,’... We have to separate what is ethnicity and what is religion... I myself, my sect is Chaldean, but ethnically, I am Assyrian.” [7] Bidawid's successor, Patriarch Louis Raphaël I Sako whom in his historical anthology entitled The Chaldean Church: Story of Survival maintains: "Technically, the term 'Chaldean' was first used in the 15th century to describe those East Syriac Christians in Cyprus who came into union with the Roman Catholic Church. While in earlier centuries simply the term 'Catholic' was preferred, Later on 'Chaldean' came into common usage and became official only after 1828." [8]

[1] Christoph Marcinkowski, The Islamic World and the West: Managing Religious and Cultural Identities in the Age of Globalisation (Transaction Publishers, 2009) 114.
[2] George Percy Badger, The Nestorians and Their Rituals Vol. 1 (London: Joseph Masters, 1852) 169, 171, 179.
[3] John Wilson, Lectures on Foreign Churches: Second series (W.P. Kennedy, 1846) 68.
[4] Faith and Thought: Journal of the Victoria Institute, Vol. 30 (Victoria Institute, 1898) 48.
[5] Yūsuf Malik, The British Betrayal of the Assyrians (Assyrian National Federation and the Assyrian National League of America, 1935) 65.
[6] Hirmis Aboona, Assyrians, Kurds, and Ottomans: Intercommunal Relations on the Periphery of the Ottoman Empire (New York: Cambria Press, 2008) 82.
[7] Simo Parpola, National and Ethnic Identity in the Neo-Assyrian Empire and Assyrian Identity in Post-Empire Times (University of Helsinki, 2004) 22.
[8] Louis Raphaël I Sako, The Chaldean Church: Story of Survival, (2013), <>, accessed 31 08. 2016.

*Abdisu IV Maron, second Patriarch of what was to become the Chaldean Catholic Church bore the title of 'Patriarch of the Eastern Assyrians.'
** Shimun VIII Yohannan Sulaqa, first Patriarch of what was to become the Chaldean Catholic Church bore the title of 'Patriarch of the Assyrians.'

Keywords: Chaldaeorum, Chaldea, Chaldean, Chaldean Catholic Church, Chaldéenne, Chaldees, Kaldaya, Mandaeans, Sabeans, כשדים, الصابئة المندائيين, الكلدان, الكنيسة الكلدانية، اور الكلدانيين، Chaldean Identity, Chaldean League, Louis Raphaël I Sako, الاثوريون ,البطريرك لويس روفائيل ساكو, الرابطة الكلدانية, خلاصة تاريخ الكنيسة الكلدانية, الاثوريون

Monday, 22 August 2016

Who are the Chaldeans?

Chaldea corresponds to the geographical territory situated within the south-eastern marshlands and coastal plains of southern Babylonia along the Euphrates and Tigris rivers.

From the beginning of the second millennium BCE, an influx of semi-nomadic clans infiltrated southern Babylonia in waves. The Chaldeans controlled much of southern Babylonia's trade routes due to the territory's adjacency to the Persian Gulf.

In antiquity, the Chaldeans were also the driving force behind the advancement of Babylonian astronomy and science. Chaldean philosophers sophisticated the already established observations and devised complex theories to describe the cosmological phenomena.

According to the table of nations, the Biblical Chaldeans were descended from Arpachshad, grandson of Noah.

During the advent of Christendom, the earliest manifestation of the Chaldeans is attested in the first century CE manuscripts entitled 'The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles.' The text constitutes the earliest principles concerning Christian ethics, rituals, church organisation, and baptism.
The Apostles further appointed: Whosoever resorts to magicians and soothsayers and Chaldeans, and puts confidence in fates and nativities, which they hold fast who know not God,- let him also, as a man that knows not God, be dismissed from the ministry, and not minister again. - Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (c. 65 CE)
The Chaldeans profess to be acquainted with the horoscope. - Hippolytus of Rome (c. 200 CE) 
Early Syriac narratives for instance that of the 'Doctrines of Addai' also indicate the Chaldeans neither embraced the Holy Gospels nor the newly founded religion 'Christianity.' Converts to Christendom were encouraged not to associate with the Chaldeans.

The term 'Chaldean' was stigmatised by the early Church fathers and employed in a derogatory connotation.

In c. 800 CE, Abbasid Caliph al-Ma'mun came into contact with the Chaldeans in the ancient city of Harran. The caliph observed that the Chaldeans practised a form of astrolatry and were not recognised as a “dhimmi.”

The term "dhimmi” refers to non-Muslim citizens of an Islamic state. The word literally means "protected person." Followers of monotheistic religions enjoyed some level of privileges under Islamic law.

The Caliph commanded the Chaldeans to either embrace one of the religions mentioned in the Koran or face death. A local tribal sheikh encouraged the Chaldeans to identify as Sabeans. The Chaldeans thus renounced their identity and embraced the Sabean nomenclature.

Early Islamic and Judaic scholarly narratives corroborate this historical event.
The Chaldeans are also called Sabeans, the name Sabeans was applied to them at the time of al-Ma'mun. - al-Khwarizmi (c. 839 CE)
Then he, the sheikh said to them when al-Ma'mun returns from his journey, say to him, 'we are Sabeans,' for this is the name of a religion which Allah, may his name be exalted, mentioned in the Koran. Profess it and you will be saved by it. - Ibn al-Nadim (c. 900 CE)
What is left of the Chaldeans is now in the two cities Harran and Roha, and that they in the time of al-Ma'mun gave up the name Chaldeans and took the name Sabeans. - Hamzah al-Issfahani (c. 900 CE)
It is well known that the Patriarch Abraham was brought up in the religion and the opinion of the Sabeans, that there is no divine being except the stars. - Musa Ibn Maymun (c. 1200 CE)
During the early Middle Ages, East Syriac Christians inhabited the northern territory of Cyprus. This community adhered to the Church of the East and were also denominationally known as Nestorians. The Roman Catholic Church viewed the Nestorians as heretics and exhausted every effort in converting them to Catholicism.

In 1445 CE, the Council of Florence presided by Pope Eugene IV succeeded in welcoming the community into Catholicism. Furthermore, the Papacy constructed a distinct confessional body and bestowed upon them the unmeaning title of 'Chaldeans.'

Why Chaldean?

The sacred liturgies practised by this community was conducted in the East Syriac dialect which the Papacy romanticised and synonymously regarded as Chaldaic- with reference to the Biblical Book of Daniel.

According to Medieval scholars, the Ethiopian (Abyssinian) faction denominationally identified its community as 'Chaldean' indicating that the term was neither exclusive to the East Syriac Christian converts, nor was it employed to designate an ethno-political identity. 
The Ethiopians call themselves Chaldeans. - Joseph Justus Scaliger (c. 1540 CE)
Six centuries since it was renounced, the Chaldean identity was thus revived by the Roman Catholic Church.

In 1552 CE, a power struggle broke out within the Church of the East which provoked distrust amongst various monks toward their anointed Patriarch.

Yohanan Sulaqa, a schismatic monk failed in legitimising his candidacy to topple the Patriarchate thus journeyed to Rome and presented his confession of faith before Pope Julius III. The Papacy consecrated Sulaqa 'Patriarch of the Eastern Assyrians' presiding over the Catholic 'Church of Mosul in Assyria.'

A rival Patriarchate was now formed.

In efforts of reinforcing the union, the Papacy came to denominate the Catholic portion 'Chaldeans' in conformity with the precedent converts in Cyprus a century earlier. In c. 1844 CE, the so-called Chaldean Patriarch was encouraged by the Holy See to journey to Constantinople in order of attaining a Ottoman mandate recognising the Chaldean Catholics as a distinct community to that of the Nestorians.
The ambitious views of the Roman pontiffs sowed the pestilential seeds of animosity and discord among all Eastern Churches; and the Nestorian Christians, who are also known by the denomination of Chaldeans, felt early the effects of their imperious councils. - Johann Lorenz Mosheim (c. 1726 CE)
They distinguish themselves by the name of Chaldeans for they detest and abhor the denomination, or distinction of Nestorians. - Cornelius De Bruyn (c. 1736 CE)
The Christians who are born in the towns of Mosul, and of Mardin, do not speak a word of Chaldaic, at least it is not their mother tongue. - Carsten Niebuhr (c. 1797 CE)
The present Chaldean Christians are of a recent origin. The sect was as new as the office, and was created for it. Converts to the Papacy from the Nestorian and Jacobite Churches were unified in one body, and dignified by the name of the Chaldean Church... In fact, all the Nestorian Church books are used by the Chaldeans. The priest seemed to think, that, in conformity with the name of his Church, its books must in ancient times have been written in the Chaldean character, but confessed at present it posses no such books, and only uses the Nestorian character (Syriac). - Rev Eli Smith (c. 1833 CE)
The so-called "Chaldeans" of Mesopotamia recieved that title, as you know, from the Pope, on their becoming Catholics. - Edward Robinson (1841 CE)
The Pope bestowed upon them, the venerable, but unmeaning title of Chaldeans, which they now claim; Although they were and are truly nothing more than Papal Nestorians, or Nestorian Catholics. - North American Review (c. 1843 CE)
The community styling themselves "Chaldeans," had not been recognised by the Ottoman Porte. This was the first recognition by the Ottoman Porte of the new community. - George Percy Badger (c. 1844 CE)
To the title which the Pope has given to them of "Chaldean Christians," they have no exclusive claim, not such a strong claim, indeed. -  John Wilson (1846 CE)
Chaldeans. A modern sect of Christians in the East, in obedience to the see of Rome. - Walter Farquhar Hook (1859 CE)
 At the schism on account of Nestorius, the Assyrians, under the generic name of the Chaldean Church, mostly separated from the Orthodox Greeks, and, being under the rule of the Persians, were protected against persecution. - Henry John Van-Lennep (1875 CE)
Another fact connected with the nationality of the Chaldeans which goes far to show they are as much entitled to Assyrian descent as any other community which boasts of ancient origins. - Hormuzd Rassam (c. 1898 CE)
Strictly, the name of Chaldeans is no longer correct. - The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 3 (1908 CE)
It may not be out of place, therefore, to point out that there were exceedingly few Roman Catholic Assyrians or "Chaldeans" as they are generally termed when they embrace Rome, amongst the refugees at Baqubah. The very large majority of the Roman Catholic Assyrians in the Mosul vilayet did not join the mountaineers and fight against the Turks in consequence were permitted by the Turks to continue to dwell practically unmolested in their homes about Mosul. - Herbert Henry Austin (1920 CE)
The modern usage of the Chaldean identity is challenged by conflicting historical narratives.
The Sabeans are the Chaldeans. - Joseph Justus Scaliger (c. 1540 CE)
The Chaldeans, that lived towards the foot of the river Euphrates, were called Sabeans by the Arabians and Jews. - George Mackenzie (c. 1711 CE)
The Chaldee language of the Sabeans. - William Tooke (c. 1769 CE)
Sabeans, or Christians of St. John, as they are vulgarly called, who lived near what was considered to be ancient Chaldea, and who are generally supposed to be descendants of the old Babylonians and Chaldeans. - John Philip Newman (c. 1826 CE)
Whenever the term "Chaldean" occurs in the Nestorian rituals, which it does only in two instances, it is not used to designate a Christian community, but the ancient sect, who have been called also Sabeans. - George Percy Badger (c. 1844 CE)
The sect variouslty known by the names of Sabeans, presents the most curious combination of wholly diverse creeds that can be conceived. As the descendants of the ancient Semitic population of Chaldea, and the inheritors of the Babylonian language. - Stanley Lane-Poole (c. 1883 CE)
The Kasdim, the Chaldeans and the Sabeans, are only different names successively given to the same people. In the time of the Bible they were called Kasdim; in the age of the Talmud they were the Chaldeans, and later they recieved the name of the Sabeans. - Michael Friedlander (c. 1890 CE)
Presently, the Sabeans of the south-eastern marshlands and coastal plains of southern Iraq identify as 'Mandaean.' The term is derived from the ancient Babylonian 'Mandētu' meaning 'the knowledgeable.' The Mandaean Book of the Zodiacs bears rich testimony to various astrological and ancient Chaldean doctrines.

Keywords: Chaldaeorum, Chaldea, Chaldean, Chaldean Catholic Church, Chaldéenne, Chaldees, Kaldaya, Mandaeans, Sabeans, כשדים, الصابئة المندائيين, الكلدان, الكنيسة الكلدانية، اور الكلدانيين، Chaldean Identity, Chaldean League, Louis Raphaël I Sako, الاثوريون ,البطريرك لويس روفائيل ساكو, الرابطة الكلدانية, خلاصة تاريخ الكنيسة الكلدانية, الاثوريون