Assyrians of The Middle
NESTORIANS, CHALDEANS, SYRIANS/SYRIACS ,
Just over a hundred years ago the Anglican missionaries Arthur J
Maclean and William H Browne wrote in their well-informed book "The
Catholicos of the East and His People" (1892). They subtitled it "Some
account of the customs of the Eastern Syrian Christians, otherwise
variously known as Assyrians, Chaldeans or Nestorians". East Syrians was
the name used in Europe & America to distinguish these Aramaic-speaking
christians from the "West Syrians", more commonly known today as Syriac
Orthodox ("Jacobites"). East referred to the pre-islamic Parthian and
Sassanian empires of Persia, includning their territories in
Mesopotamia. The use of these terms--Nestorians, Chaldeans, Syrians/Syriacs,
Arameans, and Assyrians--in reference to the same Christian minority,
depending on the users preferred term, has continued to cause confusion.
We will briefly survey the history of these various appelations, with
emphasis on the most recent of them: Assyrians. Because of the
nationalism that has flown from the adoption of that historic name, we
shall conclude this chapter with a commentary on the relationship that
"the modern Assyrians" claim exists between them and the ancients by
Of the original Christian churches and rites of Western Asia, the
"Nestorian" Church, formally known as the Church of The East (and as The
Assyrian Church of the East since 1976), was one of the only two
churches--the other being the Armenian Orthodox Church--to grow outside
the Roman Empire. When the Nestorians of the Ottoman
Empire and Qajar Iran became an important focus of attention of the
Western Protestant missions in the 19th century, some writers took the
position that the use of the name Nestorian in reference to these
Christians went back only to the 17th century when a considerable number
of them reconciled with the Roman Catholic Church and were organized by
it into a seperate body. Those who remained loyal to
their own mother church, we are told, were dubbed Nestorians. To the
community, of course, was referred to as Nestorian long before the 17th
century. Cosmas Indicopleustes spoke of "Nestorian"
Christians as early as 525. To the medieval Arab
authors, they were known as Nasturiyun or al-Nasara al-Nasturiyah
(Nestorian Christians). Toward the end of the 13th
century the traveler Burchard referred to the Nestorians as constituting
a "nation"; it was his impression that the jurisdiction of their
prelate "reached much farther in the East than that of the entire
Western Church". Writing in the mid-19th
century--when these Christians were yet to be called Assyrians-- George
P Badger noted that he had in his possetion an Arabic manuscript written
by a Sleewa ibn Yuhanan of Mosul, dated A.D. 1332, in which the author
explained that the Eastern Christians were called Nestorians because
they refused to excommunicate and anathematize Nestorius at the request
of Mar Qurillos (Cyril) of Alexandria (d.444). "And this name", wrote
Ibn Yuhanan, "has been applied to us from that day up to the present".In
time, these Eastern Christians began to refer to themselves as
Nestorians. Mar 'Abd Yeshu' (Mar Odisho) (Servant of Jesus), the
Nestorian bishop of Nisibin in the 13th century, drew up a symbol of
faith which he entitled "The Orthodox Creed of the Nestorians", and
concluded the work with the statement that it was written in "the church
of the blessed Nestorians" The community continued
to refer to itself as Nestorian through the 19th century. When in 1874
the Evangelical or Protestant section of the community was formally
recognized as an organization separate from the mother church, it was
referred to as the Reformed Nestorian Church. Some
of the more educated members of the community began to resent the
appellation toward the end of the 19th century when the Western
missionaries, especially those of the Church of England, made them
conscious of the stigma and reproach of "heresy" that the term Nestorian
was originally intended to convey. The Church was
formally known as "The Old Church of the East".
The usage and origin of the name Chaldean has also been the subject of
much acrimonious debate. While this term is generally accepted today as
referring to the Roman Catholic off-shot of the Nestorian Church, it has
in the past been used as a national name in reference to both branches.
19th century European writers, in order to distinguish between the two
churches, have referred to them as Nestorian Chaldeans and Catholic
Chaldeans. In 1840, Ainsworth one of the first few
non-catholic Europeans to visit the Nestorians, reported that these
people considered themselves Chaldeans and "descendants of the ancient
Chaldeans of Assyria, Mesopotamia and Babylonia". In order to
distinguish between the two branches of the Church, explained
Ainsworth, the term Nestorian was invented in 1681 for those who
retained their ancient faith. Austin Henry Layard,
who unearthed the ruins of Nineveh during the first half of the 19th
century, like Ainsworth, believed that the term
Nestorian was coined during the 17th-century schism, noting that the
people had always referred to themselves as Chaldean.
Layard reported that in the chapel of Rabban Hormizd, where the
Nestorian patriarchs once resided, there were tombs of several
patriarchs buried there long before the schishm; the title carved upon
their monuments, he wrote, was "Patriarchs of the Chaldeans of The
East", Layard, however, is contradicted by Badger
who claimed to have examined "all the epitaphs" with care and could not
discover any phraseology to confirm Layard.
According to Badger the title inscribed on all the tombs was "Patriarchs
and Occupants of the Throne of Addai and Mari," a
title by which some Nestorian patriarchs had at times designated
themselves. Repruductions of these early epitaphs confirm Bagder's
criticism of Layard, but do not support Badger's own reading of the
inscriptions. The American missionaries Eli Smith
and H.G.O. Dwight,  who visited the Nestorians a
decade before Layard and Ainsworth, reported that the congregation that
converted to Roman Catholicism from the Nestorian Church was dignified
by the name "the Chaldean Church" during the 17th-century schism. Two
other American missionaries Justin Perkins and Asahel Grant, both of
whom, again, visited the community prior to Ainsworth and Layard, made
the same observation. The term Chaldean, wrote Grant, is seldom applied
to the Nestorians; in no case does it seem to be applied to them prior
to the period of the split. Horatio Southgate, who was touring the
region in the early 1830s, wrote that the Nestorians "call themselves,
as they seem always to have done" Chaldeans; indeed, "Chaldean" was
their "national name," he stressed. Interestingly, after Southgate
became aware that it was Grant's firm position that the Nestorians did
not use the name Chaldean in reference to themselves, and that the were
the descendants of The Lost Tribes (10 lost tribes of Israel) of the Old
Testament, he (Southgate) became more self-assertive. He wrote that
"undoubtedly" these Syrians were "descendants of the Assyrians and not
of the Jews." His source "Those of them who profess to have any idea
concerning their origin". According to that same source the "Jacobites"
were the descendants of the Arameans--"The Syrians whose chief city was
Damascus." Smith and Dwight were in error when
they asserted that "Chaldean" was the nomenclature adopted in the
17th-century. In the late 17th-century, French Biblical critics Richard
Simon spoke of many Christian sects in the East "who bear the name
Chaldean or Syrian" and mentioned that most of the Chaldeans "are those
whom we call Nestorians"  Pope Paul V (1605-1621)
wrote to patriarch Elias (Mar Elia) that "A great part of the East is
infected by this heresy [Nestorianism], especially the Chaldeans, who
for this reason have been called Nestorians." As
far back as 1445 the Nestorians of the See of Cyprus were called
Chaldeans upon their reconciliation with The Church of Rome.
Why were the Nestorians called Chaldeans? One of the earliest authors
who refers to the them as "children of the ancient Chaldeans" is Ibn
al-'Ibri (Mar Gregorios Yuhanan Bar 'Ewraya, Barhebreus, also known as
Gregory Abu al-Faraj), the renowned 13th-century catholicos of the rival
West Syrian/Syriac Orthodox (Jacobite) Church. But, as we shall soon
see, he used the term in a derogatory manner. Yosef Assemani, the
scholar most probably responsible for the propagation of the term
Chaldean, had explained simply, and rightly, that "the Nestorians are
generally called Chaldaic Christians, because their principal, or head
church, is in ancient Chaldea."When the Roman
Catholic branch of the Nestorian Church was established in the
17th-century, its new primate was styled the "Patriarch of Babylon" (Pateryarkha
d-Bab/wel), another old and dignified title that the Nestorian
patriarchs had used when they flourished at Seleucia-Ctesiphon (Siloq w-Qtispun)
before the advent of Islam. The new catholic
patriarch was also referred to as The Patriarch of the Chaldeans of the
East, clearly indicating a confusion of geografical and ethnic terms.
Some scholars have even suggested that the use of Babylon in the title
of the Uniat patriarch is due to the erroneous 17th century
identification of modern Baghdad with ancient Babylon.
Be that as it may, it was because of the geographical location of their
patriarchate, and not beacause of their ethnic origin, that the East
Syrians/Syriacs (Nestorians) were called Chaldeans. The various names by
which they were known, and they titles bestowed by the Roman Catholic
Church upon their patriarchs, had such other exotic combinations as
"Chaldeans of Assyria" and "Eastern Chaldeans of Catholic Assyria"
nomenclatures that were "hardly ever used" by the Nestorian patriarchs
or their people themselves. They employed such familiar and traditional
titles as "Patriarch of the Orient," "Servant of the Seat of Mar Addai";
in the 17th century, according to Fiey, Mar Shimun VIII Dinkha referred
to himself in a letter addressed to Pope Clement X, simply as "Servant
of the Patriarchal Seat which is in the East." As
for Bar 'Ewraya's reference to the Nestorians as "descendants of the
Chaldeans," a careful reading shows that he used
the term to be facetious. He spoke of the Aramaic language as split into
various dialects, some of quite unintelligible, such as the dialect of
those "wonderful Easterners", "children of the ancient Chaldeans", in
whose tongue "there is no difference between Ptakha/Ftoho and Zqapa/Zqofo"
[Vocalization marks].  By Chaldean Bar 'Ewraya
meant "magicians" and "sorcerers" in the same sense as used in Daniel
(2:2, 10). Indeed, in one of his better-known books, Bar 'Ewraya defines
"Kaldayutha/Kaldoyutho"--Chaldeeism-- as "astrology and the art of
magic". Another reason for calling the Nestorians
"Chaldeans" is that their mother tongue, a dialect of Aramaic, was
identified with the so called Chaldee language. Hormuzd Rassam wrote
that "the present Chaldeans [members of both the Nestorian Church and it
Catholic off-shot], with few exceptions, speak the same dialect used in
the Targums, and in some parts of Ezra and Daniel, which are called
Chaldee." To bolster his theory that the
Nestorians were the descendants of the ancient Chaldeans, Rassam drew up
on classical historical sources and asserted that Xenophon had called
the inhabitants of northern Mesopotamia "Chaldeans". By "Chaldeans"
Xenophon meant the inhabitants of Urartu (the ancient Assyrian/Akkadian
name of the mount Ararat which belongs to modern Armenia), who are also
known as Haldians, Khaldians, and Chaldeans (after the Urartean god
Haldu,)Interestingly, when Xenophon and his ten thousand passed through
Assyria just over two-hundred years after the fall of the Assyrian
Empire, he found the region sparsely populated and identified the sites
of Nimrud and Nineveh as ruined Median cities and referred to their
former inhabitants as Medes. "Chaldean" therefore,
like "Nestorian" was used long before the 17th century schism and was
used in reference to all the East Syrians/Syriacs because of the
geographical location of their "head church". In the 17th century, the
Roman Catholic Church abstained from calling the members of the Uniat
branch by the "heretical" name Nestorian; the Uniats became Catholic
Chaldeans. When the terms Chaldeans and Nestorians were thus strictly
differentiated, members of the mother church (Nestorian), claiming the
same relationship to the inhabitants of Babylon as their Catholic
brethren, began also to use the name Chaldean. Nestorian patriarchs
occasionally used "Chaldean" in formal documents, claiming to be the
"real Patriarchs" of the whole "Chaldean Church", even though the Uniat
branch did not accept the Nestorians claims as lawful. But while the
Nestorians wanted to deny the Uniats exclusive right to the historic
name Chaldean, the term never became attached to them (the Nestorians),
From the 19th century on, when the present-day Uniat branch was
permanently organized and officially recognized by the Ottoman
government,  we find the term Chaldean losing its
"national" connotation and coming to mean only the name of a religious
denomination, the Catholic Chaldeans, formerly Nestorians.
Syrians/Syriacs (Suraye/Suroye/Suryaye/Suryoye, Suryani)
Throughout the 19th century the Nestorians were also referred to as
Syrians by European travelers and writers. Indeed, "Syrians" (Suraye,
Suroye) was the name by which the "Nestorians" and "Jacobites" called
themselves until the post-World War I period; thereafter, Suraye was
gradually replaced among the "Nestorians" by Aturaye, the name of the
ancient Assyrians in Syriac. The "Jacobites" continue to call themselves
The designations Syria and Syrian were derived from Greek usage long
before Christianity. When the Greeks became better
acquainted with the Near East, especially after Alexander the Great
overthrew the Achaemenian empire in the 4th century B.C., they
restricted the name Syria to the lands west of the Euphrates. During the
3rd century B.C., when the Hebrew Bible was translated by Jewish
scholars into the Greek Septuagint for the use of the Hellenized Jews of
Alexandria, the terms "Aramean" and "Aramaic" in the Hebrew Bible, were
translated into "Syrian" and "the Syrian (Syriac) tongue" respectively.
In Palestine itself, according to Theodor Nöldeke, the Jews and later
the Christians there, referred to their dialect of Aramaic as Syriac; in
Babylon, both Greek and Persians called the Arameans Syrians.
The 2nd century B.C. Greek historian Posidonius, a native of Syria,
noted that "the people we [Greeks] call Syrians were called by the
Syrians themselves Arameans...for the people in Syria are the Arameans."
From their humble beginnings as wandering tribesmen, the Arameans
emerged by the end of the second millennium B.C. as an important factor
in the cultural, political and economic life of southwestern Asia.
During this early period, Wayne T. Pitard refers to the Arameans as "one
of the most important ethnic groups of the Near East." Aramean tribes
attained great power in the large areas on both sides of the Syrian
desert, eventually succeeding in settling and establishing ruling
dynasties there. The most important Aramean kingdom was that of Aram,
centered in Damaskus, described as "the strongest and most influential
powers in the western fertile crescent," and one of the "most
significant states in the whole of the Levant." 
The kingdom enjoyed a central position in the political life of the Near
East, dominating the region's main international trade routes; it used
the Aramaic idiom of Damascus as the administrative language of
diplomacy and commerce beyond its borders.
While the most important territories penetrated by the Arameans were in
geographical Syria, we find them also in distant regions, stretching
from Tur 'Abdin to Nisibin, which during the Christian era, centuries
later, would be the homegrounds of some of the Syrian Christians noted
in this chapter. By the end of the 10th century
B.C. and the beginnings of the 9th, Assyrian inscriptions for the first
time informs us of Aramean political units in northern Mesopotamia,
while in the southern parts of that country their confederacies remained
a chronic menace to the Assyrians until their very downfall. The
Assyrian king, Tighlath-pileser I (Tukulti-Apil-Esharra I) (1115-1076
B.C) has recorded that he conducted 28 campaigns against the Arameans;
his namesake, Tiglath-Pileser III (Tukulti-Apil-Esharra, Bible old
testament Pul), some 350 years later, was still engaging Arameans in
war. It was in the 9th and the 8th centuries B.C. when the Arameans were
defeated ; in 720 B.C. Sargon II (Sharrukin II) finally brought to an
end the Aramean kingdoms of the west; their territories were
incorporated into the Neo-Assyrian provincial system, a century and a
decade before Assyria itself was overthrown.
The expansion of Assyrian rule over the lands beyond the Euphrates,
however, became a major burden to the Assyrians and proved to be a
suicidal act. They subdued all the Aramean, Phoenician/Canaanite, and
Hebrew communities in what Arnold Toynbee calls "the homeland of Syriac
Civilization," but this hastened the Aramean "cultural conquest of their
military conquerors," proceeding "pari passu with the extension of the
Assyrian domination over the Syriac World." Even
before its western expansion beyond the Euphrates river, the Assyrian
empire had found it necessary to use an Aramaic dialect of geographical
Syria as its official language, a move dictated by the wide expanse of
Aramaic and the convenience of its alphabet and script. With a much
larger Aramean population now under its rule, far removed from Assyria
homebase, the smaller ethnically-Assyrian population could not resist
aramaization, a process that gradually transformed the face of the
empire, "leading to the Assyrians being outlived and absorbed."
Before too long, Aramaic had displaced Akkadian even as the language of
everyday speech within Assyria itself. According to Assyriologist H.W.F.
Saggs, the cities of Assyria proper had become so cosmopolitan and
polyglot, that people of actual Assyrian descent were possibly a
minority within those cities. The dominance of
Aramaic over Akkadian in both speech and writing was so extensive in the
8th century B.C, that Aramaic script--not Aramaic language-- came to be
called in Egyptian (Demotic), Greek and Hebrew languages as "Assyrian
writing" (Greek: Assyria Grammata). The momentous
but imperceptible changes that led to the aramaization of the Assyrians
coincided with steady decline of their empire, especially after the
death of King Ashurbanipal. His weak successors could not cope with the
"festering problem of Babylonia," where the rising power of the
Chaldeans and their Aramean allies helped build up the Neo-Babylonian
empire. With Assyrian political and military power
gone, Aramean ethnicity, language and script remained and continued to
expand, facilitating the absorption process farther, peacefully
penetrating "the Babylonic body social." The high point of Aramaic was
reached under Achaemenids (539-332 B.C), when the influence of Aramaic
language and script went beyond their former boundaries. Aramaic now
attained official status in all Achaemenian territories, including Egypt
and Anatolia. Under the Iranians/Persians
Aramaic was also used for all aspects of written communication and
records, emerging by about the sixth century B.C. as the lingua franca
of Western Asia, and by the beginning of the fifth century, as the
common dialect of all peoples of the region. In his article "Aramaic in
the Achaemenian Empire," Jonas C. Greenfield speaks of "ethnic groups of
varied cultural backgrounds throughout the vast expanse of the Persian
realm" who used Aramaic language and writing.
Unlike the Assyrians, the Persians did not forget their own mothertongue;
they maintained their national-linguistic identity, largely because
their own Aramaic-speaking subjects did not predominate from within
Persia as they did in the core region of Assyria, later known as Beth
Aramaye--home of the Arameans. (With the advent of Islam, centuries
after the Achaemenids, Sasanian Persians were also able to resist
arabization; they liberally borrowed from the Arabic vocabulary and
adopted the Arabic script, but they were able to Persianize what they
have borrowed. In the case of the Assyrians and other ethnicities
aramaization was total just as the absorption of the various other
peoples would be, centuries later, through arabization.) Hebrew
University Professor Benjamin Mazar, cited above, writes that an
impressive phenomenon in the history of the Arameans is their tradition
of unity and distinctiveness, which remained unimpaired even in the
period of decline.
One of the casualties of Alexander the Great's destruction of the
Achaemenian empire was the Aramaic koine. The universal Imperial Aramaic
tongue was "deliberately replaced," writes Arnold J Toynbee, by the
Greek koine, a dialect of ancient Greek. From the third century B.C.,
Greek became the language of learning, diplomacy and commerce; it
expanded especially rapidly along the Mediterranean coast in Phoenician
and Philistine cities, and then to the lands beyond. Aramaic survived in
the countryside but the old standard language broke up into local
dialects. Some of these local vernaculars continued to play major roles,
developing different and separate alphabets such as Edessan (Syriac),
Mandaic, Palmyrene, Hatran, Nabatean, Jewish and Samaritan etc.
The future of Aramaic now lay with the dialects of Eastern Aramaic of
Mesopotamia and Babylonia, as influenced by the local dialects of the
non-Aramaic languages there. The monuments of the major Eastern Aramaic
dialects of Mesopotamia and Babylon were the Jewish Babylonian Talmud,
the scriptures of the Mandean religion, and Christian literature in
The Aramaic dialects of Mesopotamia and Babylonia that survived the
introduction of the Greek koine, and even revived after the Christian
era, had not been used as literary languages during the Assyrian and
Achaemenian times. According to Stephen A. Kaufman, the historical core
Official Aramaic adopted by the Assyrians and Persians was located
geographically and typologically somewhere between Gozan/Tell Halef and
Aleppo/Halab. Syriac (Suryoyo/Suryaya), the major Eastern dialect with
which we are concerned was the Aramaic dialect of Edessa/Urhay/Urhoy
(today Urfa in Turkey); it gradually became the new unofficial koine for
all of the various Christian sects. Even before the Christian period the
Edessan dialect had become the literary language in and around Edessa,
but it attained special prominence there in the 2nd century A.D, when it
gradually became the literary language of what Theodor Nöldeke called "Aramean
Christendom." Its importance increased with the expansion of
Christianity in Mesopotamia from the beginning of the 3rd century on. As
the language into which the Bible was translated, it became the
venerable language of the Aramaic-speaking Christians of Mesopotamia and
Persia--then both unde0r Parthian rule. As the language of the Church
and its liturgy, Syriac also became the language of the literature and
correspondence, the way Quranic Arabic--a dialect of Mecca--became the
"classical" language of Arabic literature and written communication from
the 7th century on.
The Aramaic-speaking inhabitants continued to use their varied local
dialects for everyday speech alongside classical Syriac.
According to Stephen A Kaufman, one finds no traces of the
Assyrianized Aramaic in these lesser, local dialects that might have
been there at one time; they were eliminated, he explains, by shifting
population groups and possibly by the early demise of the Assyrian
Empire. Under Islam, the local Aramaic dialects
were gradually displaced even as spoken languages, paving the way for
the islamization and arabization of the vast majority of the
Aramaic-speaking population. Members of the various Christian churches
discussed in this chapter are the majority of those who to this day
speak a dialect of Aramaic.
It was in 1843 when the French Consular agent at Mosul, Paul Emile Botta,
began his diggings at Khorsabad, about 12 miles north of Mosul, and
uncovered the ruins of the magnificent palace of Sargon II, King of
Assyria (722-705 B.C.). That same year the British excavation, under
Austin Henry Layard, discovered the majestic palace of Shalmanasar I
(ca. 884-860 B.C.) with its winged bulls, followed later by that of
Ashurbanipal (668-ca. 626 B.C.), with his libraries vast collection of
cuneiform tablets. These and other splendid collections, would soon
adorn the museums of London, Paris, and Berlin and, most important of
all, a lost chapter in history of civilization would be retrieved.
Before too long, in one of the greatest triumphs of human ingenuity, the
cuneiform writing impressed on clay tablets or chiseled in stone, was
deciphered. Assyrians texts, in Akkadian language, were soon read with
the same certainty as Hebrew and Syriac. In 1860, the great corpus The
Cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia was published by Sir Edward
Rawlinson, with the help of Edwin Norris and George Smith; about 1835,
Rawlinson had deciphered the Persian portion of the trilingual
inscription of Behistun.
What especially fascinated the Christian West by these archeological
excavations was that a few of these Assyrian monuments, starting with
the reign of King Shalmaneser, dealt at some length with the history of
the same events that were narrated in the Bible. Most of the kings of
Israel and Judah from Jehu onward were mentioned in the annals of the
Assyrian kings. one of the two most dramatic finds was the Black
Obelisk, excavated by Layard at Nimrud. in 1846 and now one of the most
popular treasures of the British Museum in London. The obelisk, a four
sided, 6 ½ -foot-high stela, carved with five registers of relief
sculptures, displays 190 lines of text. There King Shalmanasar III
describes 31 of his military campaigns, including his forays in Asia
Minor, Media, Babylonia , and the Persian Gulf. One of the registers
portrays the Israelite King Jehu, or one of his emissaries, paying
tribute to Shalmaneser, a rare reference to a Biblical king in a
contemporary extra-biblical source.
The Bible-reading public was well familiar with these Assyrian names and
events; they had been part of British and American cultural
consciousness, wrote Assyriologist H.W.F. Saggs. The history of the
ancient Hebrew kingdoms of Israel and Judah, noted Saggs, "was a living
thing, as generally known as British history" To
the Jews and the Western Christians of the 19th century, the most
important thing about the newly-discovered tablets and monuments was
that they had proven the Hebrew Bible to be right. The general public in
England began to view the Assyrian sources as a weapon to be used
primarily against Biblical "Higher Criticism" as then applied to the Old
Nestorians and Chaldeans Proclaimed Remains of Nineveh and Assyria
When the Assyrian excavations revealed the remains of Nineveh to the
wondering eyes of the world, the Nestorians and their "Chaldean"
brethren in the environs of the ancient Assyrian capital an beyond
attracted special attention. The hero of these excavations, Austin Henry
Layard, hastened to proclaim these historic, linguistic, and religious
minorities to be "as much the remains of Nineveh, and Assyria, as the
rude heaps and ruined palaces." In the midst of
this excitement , J.P. Fletcher wrote that "the Chaldeans and the
Nestorians" are "the only surviving human memorial of Assyria and
While the name Chaldeans was already, as we have seen, appropriated by
those Nestorians who had embraced Roman Catholicism, the illustrious
twin name "Assyrians" was eventually adopted by the Nestorians as a name
for themselves. Interestingly, Layard and Hormuzd Rassam continued to
use the older and more familiar name Chaldean and applied it to both the
Chaldean Catholics and "Nestorians." Coakley notes
a dispute that Rassam had with Arthur J Maclean of the Anglican mission
in Qochanis in 1889 over the names "Syrians" and "Assyrians"--"why
should we invent a name when we have such a very convenient one, used
for centuries, at our hand?" it was understandable, he agreed, that
someone living so close to the ruins if Nineveh, "should have a fit of
enthusiasm of Old Assyria," but "is it common sense to cast aside the
name used by the people themselves [Suraye] and to invent another for
them of very doubtful applicability?" Rassam's position was that
"Syrian" was wrong; the correct form was "Assyrian," but preferred,
"Chaldean." Layard always referred to the
Nestorians as "Chaldeans" or as "Nestorian Chaldeans" in order to
distinguish them from those united with Rome. Only
a few years prior to the Assyrian excavations, as already noted, one of
the bishops of Urmiyah had emphasized that the Nestorians were as
Chaldean as any Catholic renegates.
Prior to World War I, the Anglican mission to the Nestorians gave the
Assyrian nomenclature a new impetus. Formally known as "The Archbishop
of Canterbury's Assyrian Mission," it re-enforced, no matter how
unintentionally, the linkage between the Nestorians and the ancient
Assyrians. "Assyrian Christians" which originally
had only meant "the Christians of geographical Assyria," soon became
"Christian Assyrians." By the late 19th century, a
few of the educated and politically conscious among the "Nestorians,"
especially those who had immigrated to America, began using Aturaye
[Assyrians] in their writings. The assumption that
the Nestorians were the descendants of the ancient Assyrians found a
great advocate in the Anglican missionary William Ainger Wigram, who in
his post-World War I books, The Assyrians and their Neighbors and Our
Smallest Ally, popularized the name Assyrian and familiarized the world
with the tragedy that had befallen these "descendants of Shalmaneser."
During the interlude of the two world wars the world heard a great
deal about these modern Assyrians through newspapers and from the forum
of the League of Nations, a subject covered at length below. In their
own language [Sureth], the people gradually began, vocally, to call
themselves "Aturaye" (Assyrians) during the inter-war years, until then
it was as natural for them to speak of themselves as Suraye as it still
is for the Syriac Orthodox to call themselves by that name, Suroye/Suryoye....
Because the "Nestorians" had always called themselves Syrians (Suraye),
strenuous efforts were made by the more educated to prove that Suraye
(Syrians) was simply a truncated form of Ashuraye (Assyrians in Akkadian)
and that the two terms were synonymous. The initial A of "Assyrian," it
was explained, was "lost" (tliqta in Syriac--it had dropped out); The
lost "A" was now retrieved but placed under cancellation mark, meaning
that it was originally there but was not pronounced. Thus Suraya was
written "[A]Suraya", which pronounced "Ashuraya", also means Assyrian.
(of the two names which mean "Assyrian"--Aturaya [from Aramaic] and
Ashuraya [from Hebrew and Akkadian]--it is the former, Aturaya, that is
commonly used by the people. The Iraqi government, oddly, in its effort
to deny the minority an ancient Assyrian ancestry, refers to these
Christians as "Athuriyn" but never "Ashuriyn". The members of the
minority resent this usage and prefer to be referred to as "Ashuriyn,"
the form they themselves do not use.)
Wolfhart P. Heinrichs rightly calls the lost-A hypothesis very
ingenious, facilitating the claim of the nationalists, but points out
that in the Armenian language, the names for Syrian and Assyrian,
although similar sounding, both have always retained and pronounced the
initial A: Asoric/Asori for Syria/Syrian and Asorestan/Asorestantc'i for
Assyria/Assyrian. Moreover, even if "Syrian" were
derived from "Assyrian," it does not mean that the people and culture of
geographical Syria are identical to those of geographical Assyria.
Prior to the lost-A hypothesis, the learned Mar Tuma Odu wrote (in his
book Simta d-Lishana Suryaya), that the Greeks had changed Atur (meaning
Assyria in Aramaic) to Asur which gradually became "Sur" and eventually
"Suriya/Syria". While this hypothesis sounds plausible, it should be
remembered that even in classical Syriac, "Syrian" and "Assyrian" are
always differentiated by two distinct terms: "Suryaya" for Syrian and "Aturaya"
for Assyrian. In Greek, the name Assyria is a translation of the Hebrew
(and Akkadian) Ashur, which in the Old Testament connotes only
geographical Assyria, without its conquered territories; the biblical
name for geographical Syria is Aram, while Athur is the Aramaic name for
Herodotus is often erroneously cited by the nationalists as having
equated "Assyria" with "Syria," referring to his statement that the
people whom Greeks call Syrians are called Assyrians by others.
Herodotus himself, however, always differentiated between the two terms.
Randolph Helm's researches show that Herodotus "conscientiously" and
"consistently" distinguished the terms Syria and Assyria and used them
independently of each other. To Herodotus, writes, Helm, "Syrians" were
"the inhabitants of the coastal Levant, including North Syria,
Phoenicia, and Philistia"; he never [emphasis Helm's] uses the name
"Syria" to apply to Mesopotamia. Mesopotamia is always called
'Assyria'....[and its] inhabitants 'Assyrians'.
Some have argued that the physiognomies of the ancient Assyrians and the
present-day Nestorians closely resemble eachother. Before Wigram
advocated his hypothesis that the Nestorians are "Assyrian by blood,"
Fletcher had observed that those who have studied with care the
sculptural representations of the ancient Assyrians and compared them
with the moderns inhabitants of the plain of Nineveh, can hardly fail to
trace the strong features of affinity which exists between the robed
monarchs and priests of the early days and the Christian peasants of
[the plain of Mosul]." Before Fletcher, Asahel
Grant did not find it difficult to write that the Nestorians were the
descendants of the "Lost Tribes of Israel"; he noted that "the
physiognomy of the Nestorians Christians bears a close resemblance to
that of the Jews of the country in which they dwell."
Adducing as peculiar to the ancient Assyrians and the present-day
Nestorians features, customs and practices which are shared by a great
number of other Nears Easterners, Wigram, or Grant, are indeed trying to
prove too much. A number of the peoples of the region resemble both the
Jews and the Nestorians in their physiognomy, and not all the Nestorians
share the same physical features, as both Fletcher and Wigram have
Yet another "proof" that the Aramaic-speaking Christians are the
descendants of the ancient Assyrians argues that the language of the two
peoples is the same. Layard wrote that the Nestorians spoke "the
language of their [Assyrian] ancestors," an
opinion expressed by Layard's Aramaic-speaking assistant, Hormuzd Rassam:
that the ancient Assyrians "Always spoke the Aramaic language" and they
"still do." We have just seen that the ancient Assyrians did not always
speak Aramaic; their mothertongue was Akkadian, the language of the
famed cuneiform tablets and monuments that Rassam himself helped
The Bible Kept Memory of Assyrians Alive
Thank to the Old Testament, the names Assyria and Assyrian were well
known for centuries, long before the archeological excavations of the
19th century. In the works of the early Eastern Christian writers, notes
Fiey, we find all the gamut of references to these ancients, employing
indifferently the words Syrians, Athurians [Assyrians], Chaldeans, and
Babylonians, but these writers never identified with these ancients. "I
have made my indices of my Christian Assyria," emphasized Fiey. "and
have had to align some 50 pages of proper names of people; there is not
a single writer who has an 'Assyrian' name." In
early modern times, as noted above, the Roman Catholic Church added to
the confusion by coining a number of names for the various Christian
communities of the East and their patriarchs; these Roman Catholic
titles and names, however, tried to identify the geographical location
of the churches and patriarchates of the region and not the ethnic
origin of the people involved. In the 18th century
Assemani used "Assyrian" in reference to the Nestorians but with no
implication that they were the descendants of the Assyrians. Assemani,
according to Fiey, found a certain Assyrian descendance in all the
peoples in the region: Jacobite, Nestorian, Sabaeans, Yezidis, and a
great deal among the Kurds. Also in the 18th
century, the British historian Edward Gibbon, aware of this confusion of
names, wrote that the Nestorians, "under the name of Chaldeans or
Assyrians are confounded with the most learned or most powerful nation
of Eastern antiquity."
Until the 19th century A.D., the only common folk who had some
knowledge of the ancient Assyrian--their history, empire, names of some
of their kings, etc.--where the Jews, and through them the Christians.
These were the only people who religiously read the Bible or listened to
its stories and histories being read or narrated. For over 2000 years,
the Jewish people had been reading or hearing about the Assyrians before
the Assyrian cuneiform tablets were discovered and deciphered in the
19th century A.D. Assyrian monuments of stone and clay lay buried under
the dust and debris of two millenniums, written in a language long
forgotten before they were deciphered during the 1850s.
Biblical texts during those same long centuries, were carefully copied
on parchment, leather or papyrus, and reverently transmitted by hand
from one generation to the next, their stories read or listened to
throughout those ages. The Christians, too, were for centuries tuned to
the biblical accounts--for over a thousand years before the Assyrian
cuneiform documents were rediscovered.
Because of the centrality of the subject in Jewish history, the Bible
dwelt at some length on Assyrian and Babylonian kings, religion,
geography and history. The destruction of Israel by Assyria, and of
Judah by Babylon, had resulted in a national trauma for the Jews. Jewish
history, fatally entangled with that of the imperial powers of
Mesopotamia, was mourned and reflected upon in the various prophetic
works; it was always remembered, keeping at same time, the memory of
ancient Assyria alive.
It is important to bear in mind that throughout the centuries, the
cultural and religious life of the people who embraced Christianity, in
both the West and the East, was reshaped by the Bible's prayers,
proverbs, lamentations, and poetry. Biblical stories, histories, and
legend's became favorite folktales, the source of their folklore and
myths for centuries to come. The Hebrew Bible that the Christians
inherited gave them not only a sacred book but also a vision of the past
and of its peoples; it provided them with a new and distinct identity.
In time the only past that these Christians knew came from the Old
Testament--what Fergus Millar calls "the historical inheritance of the
Jesus and the Ancient Assyrians
While the Assyrians are associated in the Old Testament with war and
violence, they are also remembered there as a special people. one of the
books of the Old Testament, albeit a brief one, is wholly devoted to the
Assyrians: the story of Jonah, one of the great favorites of the Bible.
God bids Jonah, read, to a journey on a special mission to the capital
of the Assyrians, Nineveh. Through the mouth of Jonah, God warned the
Assyrians that should they not give up their wicked ways, "in forty days
Nineveh will be overthrown." The Ninevites "took heart this warning from
God; they declared a public fast, and high and low alike put on
sackcloth." God then "relented and did not inflict on them the
punishment he had threatened."
During the Christian period, over seven hundred years after the fall of
Nineveh and of the Assyrian empire, the story of Jonah became on of the
great favorites of the church fathers, its theme being the divine pardon
for repentant sinners--that God's universal love and mercy extend to all
men, even to the Assyrians. Jesus, a Jew well familiar with the Hebrew
Bible, referred to the ancient story; He used the Assyrians of Nineveh
as a model for the Jews of his day, whom he reproached for their
unwillingness to repent. "The men of Nineveh," Jesus told his listeners,
"will appear in court when this generation [of Jews] is on trial, and
ensure its condemnation, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah,
and what is here is greater than Jonah." Because
of these New Testament references, the story of Jonah and its universal
message had a special meaning for the Christians and are referred to
through the patristic literature. To Christians everywhere, the
Assyrians of Nineveh became a model during the Lenten penance. The Roman
Catholic Church reads the third chapter of Jonah on Wednesday of the
first week of Lent. In the Greek Orthodox liturgy, the entire book of
Jonah is read during Lent, while Anglicans and Lutherans read portions
of it. During the afternoon service on Yom Kippur, the Jews read the
book of Jonah because of its emphasis on God's forgiveness after genuine
The Eastern Christians, whether Armenians, Copts, Ethiopians, Jacobites,
or Nestorians, observe a pre-Lenten fast remembering the message of
Jonah and what Jesus said of the Ninevites. Locally, both Christians and
Jews commemorated the event: Christians built a church where Jonah "had
preached." The Jews of Mosul had the synagogue of Obadiah which,
according to tradition, "Jonah built." William C.
Emhardt and George M. Lamsa in the 1920s, and the Assyrian nationalists
after them, have misinterpreted the Rogation of the Ninevites (Ba'uta d-Ninwaye)
as a unique fast among the Nestorians, observed as a thanksgiving "for
the salvation of their forefathers," entirely missing the theological
and historical significance of the Biblical story of Jonah in both
Jewish and Christian tradition.
Eager to establish a link between themselves and the ancient Assyrians,
the nationalists conclude that such a link is confirmed whenever they
find a reference to the word "Assyrians" during the early Christian
period; to them it proves that their Christian ancestors always
"remembered" their Assyrian forefathers. Nationalist writers often refer
to Tatian's/Tatianos statement that he was "born in the land of the
Assyrians," and note that the Acts of Mar Qardagh trace the martyr's
ancestry to ancient Assyrian kings.
It is not surprising that "in the land of the Assyrians" one encounters
an occasional legend that traces the ancestry of an individual or group
to an ancient hero. This writer has heard Persians on the streets of
Kermanshah begging and claiming that they were the lineal descendants of
Imam Husayn--grandson of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad--who lived over
1,300 years before them. Michael G. Morony speaks of villagers of
Aramean descent who, assimilated with the Persians, claimed to be of
Royal Persian descent--"from Kisra, son of Qubadh."
The story of Mar Qardagh, himself a semi-legendary figure, is such a
legend; it traces the ancestry of his father to the family of Nimrud and
that of his mother to the family of Sennacherib (705-681 B.C.), a
genealogy that harks back over a thousand years.
Assyrian Survival After the Fall
Modern Assyrian writers usually cite a statement that assyriologist
Sydney Smith allegedly made early in the 20th century (1925)--namely,
that the ancient Assyrians disappeared "immediately" and "vanished"
after the fall of Nineveh in 612 B.C. To "disprove" Smith, the cite
another assyriologist, W.W. Tarn, who noted that for centuries after the
fall of their empire, Assyrian "survivors" perpetuated old Assyrian
names at various places on the site of ancient Ashur. Edward Y. Odisho
refers to "a few" historians who "talk about the continuation of the
(Assyrian) [sic] identity" until the establishment of Christianity in
geographical Assyria, some 8 centuries after the fall of the Assyrian
empire. What do these few historians and
assyriologists really "talk about"?
Excavations in northern Iraq, according to Sidney Smith, "have, it is
true, shown the poverty-stricken communities perpetuated the old
Assyrian names...but the essential truth," he concludes, "remains the
same": the Assyrians were "unduly devoted to practices which can only
end in racial suicide." W.W. Tarn notes that under
the Parthians in the early 3rd century A.D. "a little body of people"
worshipped the god Ashur; he describes theirs as a "pathetic survival."
More recently, assyriologist Joan Oates, in a section entitled
"Assyria after the fall," points out that on the ancient site of old
Ashur, where "a large Parthian city" was excavated, the influence of
Assyrian tradition and symbolism can sometimes be seen "in architecture
and art." Patricia Crone and Michael Cook, in
their Hagarism note that under the Parthians "The temple of Ashur was
restored, the city was rebuilt, and an Assyrian successor state returned
in the shape of the client kingdom of Adiabene/Hadyab/Khadyab,) adding
that the region had an Assyrian "self-identification" and speak of the
human survival of a "a native aristocracy."
Odisho's reading of Hagarism leads him to the conclusion that as late as
the Parthian period--over 800 years after the fall of the Assyrian
empire--"there survived a strong native (Assyrian) [sic] aristocracy
peculiar to itself and very conscious of its past and proud of it."
To reinforce this hypothesis, Odisho cites historian of ancient Iraq
George Roux, who notes that during the Parthian period geographical
"Assyria was literally resurrected," and the several of its cities were
"inhabited again, and Assur, rebuilt anew, became at least as large city
as it had been in the heyday of the Assyrian empire."
According to Odisho, the resurrection and rebuilding of Assyria were
done by the "strong native Assyrian aristocracy" that he believes
flourished under the benign rule of the Parthians. A more careful
reading of Roux, however, would have shown that there is no mention of
any Assyrian involvement in the reoccupation and reconstruction of the
"towns and villages which had been lying in ruins for hundreds of
years." In the very next sentence following the above quotation, left
out by Odisho, Roux writes that it must be emphasized that "the revival
settlements had very little in common with their Assyrian or Babylonian
precursors"; that the old Sumero-Akkadian civilization, which was
"perpetuated by a few priests in a few temples," was an "ossifized"
civilization that simply could not withstand the profound ethnic,
linguistic, religious and cultural changes that were introduced by
successive waves of invaders in northern Mesopotamia--Persians, Greeks,
Arameans, pre-Islamic Arabs--"who could be neither kept at bay nor
assimilated." This massive influx of foreign peoples and ideas "had
submerged what was left of the Sumero-Akkadian civilization." Speaking
specifically of the ancient Assyrians, Roux explains in what sense the
Assyrians "disappeared": they were a people who had forgotten their
Akkadian mother tongue, and a "nation which forgets it language forgets
its past and soon loses its identity."
The Middle Eastern "Millets"
Aramaic language molded widely differing ethnic, social, and political
elements into a uniform and integrated culture. Just as Arabic language
later amalgamated various ethnic groups, creating the Arabs, without
much regard to their Arabian physical origin, so did Aramaic mold
different identities into Arameans [Aramaye/Oromoye] ("Syrians/Syriacs/Suryaye/Suryoye/Suroye/Suraye").
The ancient Assyrians did not "vanish" when they were vanquished in the
late 7th century B.C., nor did everyone of them immedietly "perish".
The merely "merged with the mass of Near Eastern Arameans," just as
other peoples before and after them, were similarly assimilated, like
the Sumerians, Babylonians, Hittites, Hurrians, and others.
About 800 years after the fall of Nineveh, a common religion
(Christianity , in this case Syriac Christianity), together with a
common langauge (Syriac/Aramaic) unified the peoples of this region,
just as Islam and the Arabic tongue would arabize and muslimize most of
the Arameans a few centuries later, causing them to "disappear".
Christianity began in an Aramaic environment; Jesus preached his message
in an Aramaic dialect. Among the converts to the new faith were Jews and
Gentiles of all ethnic backgrounds. The Church and the new religion
served as a melting pot; as members of a new dispensation, the converts
tended to lay aside former distinctions and prejudices and became in the
character of Christians one homogenous people devoted to the Lord, not
unlike the Islamic umma of the 7th century A.D.
Writing in the third century, Bar Daysan, the eminent Edessan known as
founder of Syriac literature, did not feel himself to be a leader of a
sect but rather to belong unquestionably to the universal Church. "What
shall we say about ourselves, the 'new race' of Christians whom Christ
has caused, to be raised in all countries as consequence of his own
coming? We are all Christians by the one name of Christ wherever we may
be found." He then proceeds to speak of brethren in Gaul, Parthia,
India, Persia and Mesopotamia without making any distinction.
But the Christian community could not for long think of itself as a new
nation. Various factors--geographical, political, sociological-- were
bound to give rise to a whole new set of ideas which were very different
from the aims of the accepted Church tradition. In the case of the
Church of the East the hostility between the Roman and Persian empires
made it necessary for these Aramaic-speaking Christians of Persia to
build up their own independent ecclesiastical organization. Eventually,
the Church in Persia became a sort of national church over which the
Bishop of Seleucia-Ctesiphon wielded unlimited power.
The various sections of the dissected Christian community in the Middle
East eventually developed into "secondary ecological and kinship units."
They became millets, a term which, depending on the group's geography,
history and size, could be translated into sects, communities,
minorities, or nationalities--groups of people who owed allegiance to
one another and their religious leaders by the ties of faith and
language. A member who adopted another creed was regarded as a renegade.
The people who today call themselves Assyrians are, strictly speaking,
members of a cultural and religious group, molded together into a
minority by ties of a common language and, until the 19th century, a
common church membership which, until the birth of the modern
nation-state in the Middle East, was the strongest tie among people. The
lineal origin of the community, like that most of Middle Eastern
nationalities--and nationalities the world over-- is hidden in the mists
of history. The religious and linguistic minority under discussion is
naturally a mixture of ethnicities, mainly Aramean, but also Persian,
Kurdish, Arab,  and
Jewish, just as present-day Arabs are the result
of a similar merging of a variety of nationalities. But just as it was
the speakers of Arabian language who gave most of the converts to Islam
in the Middle East and North Africa the name "Arab," so the Arameans
gave the various converts to Christianity their mother tongue, and for
the next 1,800 years, bequeathed to them the language of their
literature and liturgy as well as the very name by which they have for
centuries called themselves--Suraye/Suroye, Suryaye/Suryoye.
footnotes and sources
 For a recent collection of scholarly articles on the
early history of these two churches see East of Byzantium: Syria and
Armenia in Formative Periods, edited by Nina G Garsoian, Thomas F
Mathews and Robert W Thomson. Washington D.C. (Dumbarton Oaks, Center
for Byzantine Studies), 1982. For the early beginnings of the East
Syrian Church, see also below, pp. 35 ff.
 William F Ainsworth, Travels and Researches in Asia
Minor, Mesopotamia, Chaldea and Armenia. (London, 1842), II, 272;
Horatio Southgate, Narrative of a Tour through Armenia, Kurdistan,
Persia and Mesopotamia (London ,1840), II, 178-179; Austin Henry Layard,
Nineveh and its Remains (New York, 1851), I, 217. For details on the
17th century schism, see below, pp. 55-58.
 Leonhart Rauwolff, Itinerary into the Eastern
Countries, as Syria, Palestine, or the Holy Land, Armenia, Mespotamia,
Assyria and Chaldea, etc., trans. Nicholas Staphorst (London, 1693), pp.
22, 350-351. (Rauwolff's travels took place in 1573-1574.) Pedro
Teixeira, who visited Baghdad in 1604, found 80 houses of "Nestorians"
and ten of "Armenians." The Travels of Pedro Teixeira translated and
annotated by William F Sinclair.(London, 1902), pp. 66, 168, 252; see
also Rafa'il Babu Ishak, Ta'rikh Nasara al-'Iraq mundh Intishar a-Nasraniyah
fi al-Aqtar al-'Iraqiyah ila Ayyamina (Baghdad, 1948), p. 124.
 See John Stewart, Nestorian Missionary Enterprise
(Madras, 1928), pp. 89, 114, 328.
 al-Biruni, al Athar al-Baqiyah 'an al-Qurun
al-Khaliyah, ed. E Sachau (Leipzig, 1878), pp. 288, 309; al-Shahrastani,
Kitab al-Milal wa al-Nihal, ed W Cureton (London 1846), p. 175; Ibn Hazm,
al-Fisal fi al-Milal wa al-Ahwa wa al-Nihal , (Cairo, 1928), I, 48.
In modern times the term al-Nasatira is used in Arabic source.
 Burchard of Mount Sion, A Description of the Holy
Land, trans. Aubrey Steward (London, 1896), p. 107, (in Palestine
Pilgrims Text Society Library, Vol XII, Pt. 1). See also Abbe Carre ,
The Travels of Abbe Carre in India and the Near East, 1672-1674 (London,
1947), 1, 87.
 George P Badger, The Nestorians and their Rituals
(London, 1852), I, 127-129, For the theology of Nestorius, and its
condemnation, see below, pp. 40-41.
 Ibid., 49.
 Badger notes that the Patriarch Mar Awraham Shamun
told him that all the Christians "Only we are Nestoraye." J. F. Coakley
quotes a letter written in 1888 by Mar Ishaq (Matran) Khnanishu saying
"We, Eastern Nestorians..." J.F. Coakley, The Church of the East and the
Church of England , (Oxford, 1992), pp. 141, 365 n. 8.
 John L. Mosheim, An Ecclasiastical History,
Ancient and Modern. (New York, 1867), I, 151; Arthur J. Maclean and
William H Brown, The Catholicos of the East and His People (London,
1892), p. 6; Coakley, under "Nestorian doctrine" in his index. See also
below, pp. 40f.
 The preferred usage since 1976 has been The
Assyrian Church of the East. While the hierarchy of the Church has
followed the laity in choosing a "national" name, there has been a clash
over this subject of names in the West Syrian (Jacobite or Syriac
Orthodox) Church; the "national" and historical name preferred by the
hierarchy is Aramean while a minority among the laity opt for Assyrian.
For details, see chapter by Wolfhart Heinrichs entitled "The Modern
Assyrians--name and nation," in Festschrift Philologica Constantino
Tsereteli Dicta, ed. Silvio Zaorani (Turin, 1993), pp. 103, 111-12. See
also below, pp. 9-10; 32n.113.
 Claudius J Rich, Narrative of a Residence in
Koordistan and on the Site of Ancient Nineveh (London, 1836), II, 276;
I, 275n. See also Jean B Piolet, Missions catholiques francaises au XIX
siecle (Paris, 1901), I, 223; Ainsworth, II, 198, 223; Mary Sheil,
Glimpses of Life and Manner in Persia (London, 1856), p, 349; Joseph
Wolff, Travels and Adventures of the Rev. Joseph Wolff (London, 1861),
pp. 223, 457.
 Ainsworth, II, 272.
 For details on these excavations, see pp. 15-16
 Layard, Nineveh, I, 5, 217.
 Ibid, I, 199.
 Badger, I, 181.
 For reproductions of the epitaphs in question, see
Kurkis Hanna 'Awwad, Athar Qadim fi al-'Iraq -- Dayr al-Rabban Hurmizd
(Mosul, 1934), pp 35, 37, and Jacques Voste, "Les Inscriptions de-
Rabban Hormuzd et de N-D des Semences pres d-Alqos (Iraq)," Le museon,
43 (1930), pp. 263-316. The pre-19th century titles inscribes are simply
"Catholicos Patriarch of the East," or "Patriarch of The East," and
occasionally, simply "Catholicos." Badger had seen "The impression of a
[patriarchal] seal" bearing the title "Patriarch and Occupant of the
Throne of Addai and Mari," but reproductions of the epitaphs do not bear
him out. For the revision of this note the author is indebted to Dr.
H.L. Murre-van den Berg, who brought the extensive Voste article on
these inscriptions to his attention. For more information on the
Nestorian patriarchal titles see below, pp. 22-23, and Thomas of Marga,
The book of Governors, ed. and tr. E.A.W. Budge (London, 1893), I, clxxi,
and letter from the Nestorian patriarch sent to Mr. Perkins in 1836,
literally translated and printed in The Missionary Herald, 33 (1857),
55, and ibid., 36 (1840), 305; the title used is simply "Patriarch of
the East" (Pateriarkha d-madenkha).
 For other references to Smith and Dwight, see
below, pp. 65, 67.
 Horatio Southgate, Narrative of a Tour through
Armenia, Kurdistan, Persia and Mesopotamia, 2 vols. (New York, 1840),
vol 2, pp. 182-183. Cf Coakley , op. cit., p. 367 n12, Heinrichs , op.
cit., p. 110, n. 20. See also Asahel Grant, The Nestorians or The Lost
Tribes, (London, 1841), pp. 198-199; Justin Perkins, A Residence of
Eight years in Persia among the Nestorian Christians (New York, 1943),
p. 4. For more on Grant and his thesis on Nestorian origins, see below ,
 Richard Simon, Histoire critique de la creance et
des coutumes des nations du levant (Frankford, Holland, 1684), p. 83.
 Joseph S Assemani, Bibliotheca orientalis, iv
(Rome, 1721), 75.
 One of the ruined churches of Famagusta in Cyprus
continued to be known as the Nestorian Church. See Camille Enlart. L'Art
gothique et la renaissance en Chypre (Paris, 1899), pp. 356-365.
 Assemani , III, ii, 177.
 See Sunhadus, ix, 1.
 J. Labourt, "Chaldean Christians," The Catholic
Encyclopedia; H Dressler "Baghdad," The New Catholic Encyclopedia. See
also Donald Attwater, Catholic Eastern Churches (London, 1935), p. 231n;
Butrus Nasri "Lam'ah fi al-Abrashiyat al-Kaldaniyah wa-Silsilat
Asaqifatuha," al-Mashriq, 9 (1906), 640; Badger, I, 153.
 For the profusion of patriarchal titles granted by
the Roman Catholic Church, see J-M Fiey. "'Assyriens' or Arameens?",
L'Orient syrien, 10 (1965), pp. 146-148 and his more recent,
posthumously published article, "Comment l'Occident en vint a parler de
'Chaldeen?" in Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of
Manchester, 78 (Autumn, 1996), pp.163-170. See also Layard, Nineveh, I,
199 ; Samuel Giamil, Ktawa d-Mat'aninwati d-'idta d-kaldayi 'am kursya
shlikhaya d-Rumi (Rome, 1902), p. 208.
 Hormuzd Rassam, "Biblical Nationalities Past and
Present", Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archeology, 8 (1885),
373; Butrus Nasri and Addi Saliba Ibrahina, "Ta'ifat al-kaldan al-Kathulik,"
al-Mashriq, 3 (1900), 818.
 Ibn al-'Ibri, M'alta L'Grammatiqi (Jerusalem,
1916), pp.vii-viii, manuscript in the library of the Syriac Orthodox
Church, Bishopric of Beirut.
 Ibn al-'Ibri, The Chronography of Gregory Abu'l
Faraj, trans. E.Q Wallis Budge (London, 1932), 1, 7; se also ibid., pp.
9, 52. For the meaning of Chaldean, see Ya'qub Augin Manna, Margi
Pighyanayi d-Marduta d-Aramayi (Mosul, 1901), pp. 4f. Ibn al-'Ibri
obviously was not aware of the ancient Chaldeans achievements in
astronomy. As early as the 7th century B.C, the study of astronomy in
Babylon had begun to conform to present reckoning; lunar year had 365
days, regulated into 12 months, alternating between 29 and 30 days. See
Bernard Grun, The timetables of History (New York, 1975), p. 11. For the
various usages of the term Chaldean, including its reference to a
priestly class, see F. Rochberg-Halton, "New evidence for the History of
Astrology," Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 43 (1984), 115-16.
 For more on the relationship between the ancient
Chaldeans and Arameans and their languages, see below, p. 12.
 See Xenophon's Anabasis, II, iv to III, v and
passim. Throughout his celebrated memoir, Xenophon designates the name
of Assyria as Media. See Eduard Meyer, "Media," in Encyclopedia
Britannica (11th ed.). See also David Oates, Studies in the Ancient
History of Northern Iraq.London (Oxford, 1968), p. 60; M. Rostovtzeff, A
History of the Ancient World (Oxford, 1925), I, 117; J. Friedrich,
Extinct Languages (New York, 1957), p. 81; A.T.E. Olmstead, History of
Assyria (New York, 1923), pp. 100-111; H.R. Hall, The Ancient History of
the Near East (London, 1947), pp. 458-459.
 See below, pp. 57-58.
An encyclical presented to the faithful in 1981 by their patriarch,
Ignatius Zakka Iwas, covered, among other matters "the issue of the true
name" of the Church. That name, the encyclical confirmed, is the Syriac
Orthodox Church of Antioch ('idto suryoyto ortodoxoyto d-Antiokhia), and
its language is known as the Syriac language; (leshono suryoyo), and its
people by the Syrian (Syriac) people ('amo suryoyo). Any other name "is
not only alien and foreign, but also a distortion, falsification and
forgery of the historical truth". For the text in the Encyclical in the
Arabic language, see Al-Majallah al-Batriyarkiyah (1981), pp.386-389.
The author is greatful to Dr George Anton Kiraz for providing him with a
copy of that article as well as its translation as it appears on the
Internet, where the document is maintained by the Editorial Board of the
Syriac Orthodox Resources, last updated on December 14, 1997.
It is important to remember that the Greco-Roman period of Middle
Eastern history lasted almost exactly one thousand years; known as the
Hellenistic Period, it was brought up to an end by the Arab conquest of
the seventh century A.D.
The Authorized Version of the Bible continued to use the same terms that
the Septuagint had adopted. In 1970, the New English Bible, published by
Oxford and Cambridge University presses, and translated by biblical
scholars drawn from the various British universities, went back to the
original Hebrew terms, using Aram and Arameans for Syria and Syrians
See T. Nöldeke, "Semitic Languages", in Encyclopedia Britannica,11th
ed., p. 625; Nöldeke also notes that it is "properly speaking, incorrect
to employ the word 'Syriac' as meaning the language of Edessa alone"
even though Edessan Aramaic has the best claim to it.
See J.G. Kidd, Posidonius (Cambridge Classical Texts and Commentaries,
1988), vol. 2, pt. 2, pp. 955-956. Consult also Arthur J Maclean,
"Syrian Christians," Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics; Frederic
Macler "Syrians (or Arameans)" in ibid., where the two terms are "taken
for granted" to have been originally synonymous. Consult also Sebastian
P Brock, "Eusebius and Syriac Christianity," in Harold W. Attridge and
Gohei Hata, eds., Eusebius, Christianity and Judaism (Leiden, 1992), p
226. See also T. Nöldeke, "Assyrios, Syrios, Syros," in Hermes, 1871, p.
461 and W. Heinrichs, pp103-105.
See Benjamin Mazar, "Aramean empire and its relations with Israel,"
Biblical Archeologist, 25 (December, 1962), 101-102, 112-117. For more
on the Arameans, see also Wayne T. Pitard, Ancient Damascus: A
Historical Study of the Syrian City-State (Winona Lake, Indiana, 1987);
Abraham Malamat, The Arameans in Aram Naharaim and the Rise of Their
States (Jerusalem, 1952), Emil Kraeling, Aram and Israel or, Arameans in
Syria and Mesopotamia (Columbia University Oriental Studies: No 13,
Glenn M Schwartz, "The origins of the Arameans in Syria and northern
Mesopotamia: Research problems and potential strategies," in To the
Euphrates and Beyond, archeological studies in honor of Mauritis N. von
Loon, ed. O.M.C. Haex, et al. (Rotterdam, 1989), pp. 277-279. For a map
showing the widespread Aramean migrations of the 11th century B.C., see
H.W.F. Saggs, The Might That Was Assyria, (London, 1984), p. 67.
See Toynbee, History (1954), vol. viii, pp. 440-441 and vol. xii (1961),
p 393. Consult also Richard N Frye, The Heritage of Persia (Mentor Book
edition, 1966 printing), pp. 80-81; "Assyrian political expansion"
writes Frye, was accompanied by "the Aramean ethnic expansion."
Hayim Tadmor's chapter "The Aramaization of Assyria: Aspects of Western
Impact," in H.J. Nissen and J. Renger. eds., Mesopotamien und Seine
Nachbarn, (Berlin, 1987), vol. 2, p. 459. See also Saggs, loc. cit., pp
See also below, pp. 27-29.
See Joseph Naveh and Jonas C. Greenfield, "Hebrew and Aramaic in the
Persian Period," in Cambridge History of Judaism (1984), v. 1, pp.
126-127. Richard C. Steiner's research points to Egyptians as the first
who called Aramaic writing "Assyrian script." The Greek Assyria Grammata
(script of Assyria) and Samaritan Hebrew Ktav Ashuri are derived from
the Egyptian Demotic, directly in the case of Greek, indirectly in the
case of Samaritan Hebrew. Steiner speaks of the Egyptians as being "Far
enough away and insular enough not to feel to distinguish Aram from
Assyria". Consult his article,
"Why the Aramaic script was called 'Assyrian' in Hebrew, Greek and
Demotic," in Orientalia (Rome: Pontificium institutum biblicum), 62
(1993), pp 80-82.
Saggs, The Might That Was Assyria, pp. 89, 95, 99; Frye, Heritageof
Persia, pp. 80 seq.
Toynbee (1954), vol. viii, pp. 440-442. See also J.C. Greenfield,
"Aramaic in the Achaemenian Empire," in The Cambridge History of Iran,
v. 2, p. 709.
The terms Iran and Iranians will be used interchangeably with Persia and
Loc. cit. See also Roux, op. cit.
pp. 276, 411-412.
Toynbee, xii (1961), pp. 442-443, citing A. Dupont Sommer's Les arameens
(Paris, 1949), pp. 98-102. See also Joseph A. Fitzmyer, A Wandering
Aramean (Ann Arbor, 1979), p. 71, where he notes that of the various
forms of Aramaic, the closest to old Official Aramaic seems to be that
represented in Palestine.
See also Raymond A Bowman, "Arameans, Aramaic and the Bible," Journal of
Near Eastern Studies, 7 (April, 1948), pp. 84-87. For studies on the
various divisions and phases of Aramaic, see Fitzmyer, ibid, pp. 57-84;
Franz Rozenthal, Die Aramäistsche Forschung, op. cit. and his article
"Aramaic Studies the Past Thirty Years," in Journal of Near Eastern
Studies , 37 (1978), 81-91. The only remains of the Western Aramaic
dialect still spoken on the soil of geographical Syria are those used in
Ma'lula, and the nearby villages of Bakh'a and Jubb' Adin. See Murre-van
den Berg, op. cit., p. 3.
Fore more on the revival of Syriac during the Hellenistic and Islamic
period, see below, pp. 50ff.
See Stephen A. Kaufman, The Akkadian Influences on Aramaic (Chicago: The
University of Chicago, Assyriological Studies, No. 19, (1974), pp. 160,
164-165 and p. 165 n. 105. See also idem., "Reflections on the
Assyrian-Aramaic Bilingual from Tell Fakheriyeh," Maarav, 3/2 (1982),
For details on the present state of these dialects, see Zomaya S.
Solomon, "The State of Spoken Aramaic Today," in Proceedings, Ninth
World Congress of Jewish Studies (1986), pp. 23-30.
 The Ashurbanipal palace library's 22, 000 clay
tablets cover subjects in history, medicine, astronomy, astrology and
recorded information on the movement of the planets and signs of the
zodiac. For the fascinating story of these early excavations and their
translation, C. Wade Meade, Road to Babylon, Development of U.S.
Assyriology (Leiden, 1974). After World War II the excavations at Nimrud
were re-opened (1949) by Max Mallowan on behalf of the British School of
Archeology in Iraq. The team worked there until 1963, under direction
of David Oates. Since 1963 several teams have excavated at Nimrud,
including an expedition from the British Museum in 1989. For a summary
article see John Curtis, "Nimrud, Ancient and Modern," The Illustrated
London News, 280 (Summer, 1992), 75-77.
 For biblical references to Jehu, see 2K 9:14,
10:4. An article in a recent issue of the journal Biblical Archeology
Review, entitled "Did King Jehu kill His Own Family?", attempts to
reconcile the Biblical text with that of the Black Obelisk. The
Assyriologist author remarks that modern Biblical scholarship generally
concludes that Assyrian information is reliable within certain
parameters. The Hebrew Bible, writes Tammi Schneider, "does not refute
the Assyrian information, it does not simply mention it." 21
(January-February 1995), 26-33, 80-82.
 Saggs, The Might That Was Assyria, pp. 290, 305-6,
and his booklet, published by the University of Wales Press in 1969
entitled Assyriology and the Study of the Old Testament--an inaugural
lecture delivered at University College, Cardiff.
 D.J. Wiseman, The Expansion of Assyrian Studies,
(London, 1962), p. 11. If some cuneiform tablets corroborated parts of
the historical books of the Bible, others seemed to challenge their
originality. In the 1870s George Smith stirred England with the
announcement of his discovery of a tablet containing a parallel to the
legend of the deluge in Genesis. Other tablets he deciphered contained,
he reported, accounts of the origin of the world, the creation of
animals and man, and the fall of man from a sinless state. Such
documents fueled Biblical criticism adding to the secular challenges to
revealed religion that 18th and 19th century discoveries in geology,
anthropology and biology had already produced. The Assyrian documents,
it was argued, now proved that the ancient Hebrews, like other peoples,
had simply added to what they had borrowed from much older neighboring
cultures; that it was Christian bias which placed Israel/Palestine at
center stage. See George Smith , The Chaldean Account of Genesis (New
York, 1876), p. 17. See also Stephanie Dalley, Myths from Mesopotamia,
Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh and Others (Oxford, 1989), pp. 7 seq.,
and H.W.F. Saggs, The Encounter with the Divine in Mesopotamia and
Israel. London, 1978. Consult also Darwin's Origin of the Species,
published in 1859 when the excitement of the Egyptian and Mesopotamian
excavations was reaching its peak. For a delightful account of these
challenges, read Naomi Shepherd, The Zealous Intruders, The Western
Rediscovery of Palestine (London, 1987); see also, Emil G. Kraeling, The
Old Testament since the Reformation, (New York, 1955) pp. 91 seq.; S. J.
Barrows, "Assyriology and the Bible," Unitarian Review and Religious
Magazine, 12 (1879), seq. 46, and George Sarton, History of Science
(Baltimore, 1927-1949), vol 1, p 246.
 Layard, Nineveh, I, 5.
 J.P. Fletcher, Notes from Nineveh and Travels in
Mesopotamia, Assyria and Syria (Philadelphia, 1850), p. 188. Fletcher
was Badgers lay companion sent by the Archbishop of Canterbury to begin
work among the Nestorians in 1842.
 See above, pp. 3ff.
 The correspondence between Rassam and Maclean was
carried on through on of the administrators of the Anglican mission in
England, for details see Coakley The Church of the East and the Church
of England, pp. 147-148.
 See his Nineveh and Its Remains passim.
 See above, p. 8.
 Isabella L. Bishop, Journeys in Persia and
Kurdistan. (London, 1891), II, 237. See also Aubrey R. Vine, The
Nestorian Churches (London, 1937), pp. 179-180. Cf. Coakley, p. 366 n.
 An appeal by Archbishop Tait published in 1870,
was entitled "Appeal on behalf of the Christians of Assyria, commonly
called the Nestorians." and "From that moment 'Assyrian' replaced
'Nestorian" in formal Anglican vocabulary," writes Coakley, the
historian of that mission. Op. cit. p. 65. See also Rufus Anderson,
History of the Missions of the American Board of Commissioners for
Foreign Missions in the Oriental Churches (Boston, 1872), ii, 83, where
he points out that in 1840, the American missionaries used the
designation "Assyria Mission" in reference to their apostolic work among
the Christian sects in Mosul.
 Daniel P. Wolk's recent research shows that even
the Urmiyah Christians in America, in their own language, continued
until after World War I to refer to themselves as Suryaye. In his
reading of some of their major publications from 1907 to 1920, Wolk
found that the first ethno-nationalist organization established in
Urmiyah, Khuyada--Unity--was a Suryeta organization. Chicago's newspaper
Mashkhiddana Suryaya-- Suryaya Herald--first published in 1915--changed
to Mahskhiddana Aturaya only in 1920, when the nationalist discourse had
come to age; the title in English was Assyrian, American Herald, most
probably because "Syrian" in the United States stood for the more
numerous Arab Christians from geographical Syria. See Wolk's "The
Emergence of Assyrian ethnonationalism: The Discourse Against the
Hachoqage ('Thieves of the Cross')," paper presented at the Middle East
Studies Association Conference (MESA), Chicago, December 6, 1998. For
the growth of Assyrian nationalism, quickened during the war years, an
the presence of an Assyrian American delegation at the Peace Conference
in Paris, see below, pp. 156-157.
 Maclean and Browne, p. 6. See also Coakley,. 147,
where he quotes Maclean saying "there is really as far as I know no
proof that they ['the Syrian Christians'] had any connection with the
Old Assyrians. One of the few Anglicans who did use the term Assyrian
was Archbishop of Canterbury Benson," but that is a fad of His Grace, as
no one else does," wrote one of the missionaries quoted by Coakley. See
also Fiey (1965), pp. 149-151.
 Heinrichs, pp 106-7, where he calls the hypothesis
"simply naive." Armenian name Asori referred to the people of
geographical Syria, the Arameans wherever they were found. The writer is
grateful to the late Dr. Avedis K. Sanjian, Narekatsi Professor of
Armenian Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, for
confirming my reading of these terms in his letter dated October 10,
1994. Cosult also Norayr de Byzance, Dictionnaire francaisarmenien
(Constantinople, 1884) under "Assyrien," "Syrien" and "Syriaque"; S.
Mulkhasyantch, Armenian Etymological Dictionary (Erivan, 1944), I 236; G
Avadikian, K. Surmelian and M. Avkerian, Dictionary of Armenian Language
(in Armenian) (Venice, 1836), I, 314. See also, M. Falla Castlefranchi,
"Armenia," Encyclopedia of the Early Church, v. 1, p. 79; Frederick C.
Conybeare, "Armenian Language and Literature," in eleventh edition of
Encyclopedia Britannica. In late 16th century, Sharaf Khan al-Bidlisi
referred to the Nestorians as "Christian infidels called Ashuri" a
borrowing from the Armenian. See also al-Bidlisi's Sharafnameh (in
Farsi/Persian) (Cairo, n.d.), pp. 130-132.
 Heinrichs, pp. 102-103, 104., n. 9. Well known
Semitic scholars are of the opinion that "Syrian" and "Assyrian" are of
completely different origins even though it remains for the future
historians to prove the correctness of the theory. See Rosenthal's Die
aramäistische Forschung seit. Th. Nöldeke's Veröffentlichungen (Leiden,
1939), p. 3, n. 1.
 This confusion of terms was highteaned in an
article entitled "Assyria and Syria: Synonyms," by Richard N Frye; it
appears in the Journal of the Nears Eastern Studies, v. 51. n. 4
(October, 1992), 281-285. This article was reprinted in the Journal of
the Assyrian Academic Studies, followed by a critique by this writer
entitled "Assyria and Syria: Synonyms?" See JAAS, v. 11 n. 2 (1997), pp.
30-34. Fore more on Mar Tuma Odu and his position on this subject, see
Heinrichs, p. 103.
 See Helm's "Herodotus Histories VII.63 and the
Geographical Connotations of the Toponym 'Assyria' in the Achaemenid
Period" (paper presented at the 190th meeting of the American Oriental
Society, at San Francisco, April 1980). See also his "Greeks' in the
Neo-Assyrian Levant and 'Assyria' in Early Greek Writers" (Ph.D.
dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1980), pp. 27-41; see also
Herodotus' Histories, I.105 and II.106. The late Arnold J. Toynbee, has
also clarified that the Syrioi "are the people whom Herodotus includes
in his 5th Taxation District" which includes "the whole of Phoenicia and
the so-called Philistine, Syria together with Cyprus."
The Syrioi, emphasizes Toynbee, are "not the people of an 'Assyria'
which contains Babylon and which is the 9th district of his list." A
Study of History (1954), vol. vii, p. 654, n. 1. See also George
Rawlinson, The History of Herodotus, ed. Manuel Konroff (New York,
1956), bk. ii, p. 115. Cf. Odisho, The Sound System of Modern Assyrian,
op. cit., pp. 8-9.
 W. A. Wigram, The Assyrians and their Neighbors
(London, 1929), p. 167.
 Fletcher, op. cit., p. 188.
 Grant, Nestorians, p. 223. In his review of
Grant's book, Semitic scholar Edward Robinson made a strong argument
against Grant's hypothesis in American Biblical Repository, 6 (1841),
454-482. 7 (1842), 26-68. See also Ainsworth, II, 256-271. Consult also
Encyclopedia Judaica under Israel Joseph Benjamin (also known as
Benjamin II), where, independent of Grant and only a few years after
him, Benjamin II wrote of an ancient popular tradition that among the
Nestorians there were families of Jewish origin. A.J. Maclean has noted
that many Jews in Eastern Turkey and Persia have a vernacular closely
akin to the spoken Aramaic dialect of the Nestorians. Speaking of the
population of the Jilu district of Hakkari, he wrote that the people
there "are very different in appearance and character from most of the
other Syrians, being of a more Jewish cast." See his Grammar, op. cit.
p. xiii. In his monumental history of the Jews in Babylonia, Jacob
Neusner writes that he is "much impressed by Asahel Grant's argument in
favor of the northern Israeli (Adiabenian) origin of the Nestorians."
See v. 3, pp. 15-31, 339n. For a study of the Jews in Grant's day in
Kurdistan, see W.J. Fischel, "The Jews of Kurdistan, a Hundred Years
Ago, a traveller's record," Jewish Social Studies (1944), 195-226. For
details on Jewish origin of Syriac Christianity in general, see below,
 Nineveh, I, 203.
 See Rassam "Biblical Nationalities," pp. 178, 371.
For details on the aramaization of the Assyrians, see pp. 11-12, 27-29.
 See his "'Assyriens' ou 'Arameens'?", p. 146.
 Ibid. See also Coakley, The Church of The East,
 See Fiey (1965), p. 148, n. 33, where the
expression in French is "beaucoup parmi les Kurdes." See also Assemani,
III, ii, 177.
 Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall
of the Roman Empire, ed. J.B. Bury (London, 1898), v. 150.
 See above, pp. 15ff.
 For the text of the Book of Isaiah--a major
Biblical source on the ancient Assyrians--"preserved complete" in many
Syriac manuscripts from the 5th century A.D. on--see Isaiah, Part III,
fascicule 1 of The Old Testament According to the Peshitta Version, ed.
by the Peshitta Institute of Leiden, prepared by Sebastian Brock (Leiden
1987), pp. viii, x, xi, xiii, xx, xxii. See also "Text History and Text
Division in Peshitta Isaiah," in P.B. Dirksen and N.J. Mulder, The
Peshitta: Its Early Text and History, (Leiden, 1988). The books of the
Peshitta Old Testament were translated at different times by Jews for
Aramaic-speaking Jews of Mesopotamia; they were adopted as their own by
the early Aramaic-speaking Christians, many of them formerly Jews. The
origins of the various components of the Peshitta Old Testament, writes
Sebastian Brock "remain extremely obscure" (1992, p. 225). See also Han
J.W. Drijvers "Early Syriac Christianity: Some Recent Publications," in
Vigilae Christianae, 50, no. 2 (1996), 174.
 The historical books of the Hebrew Bible recorded
the danger to Israel that emanated from Assyria, Babylonia, and Egypt.
The imperial expansion of the two Mesopotamian empires westward toward
Palestine and Egypt had naturally attracted the attention of the
prophets. Assyrian power and cultural influence were at their height in
the time of the prophet Isaiah, the prophet who showed the keenest
interest in the affairs of the Assyrians. The various chapters of the
book of Isaiah deal with a number of crises and alliances in the region,
including negotiations in 727 between Assyria and Egypt, the Assyrian
suppression of a Babylonian rebellion in 731-729, and the Assyrian King
Sargon's new anti-Egyptian policy. Consult John R Bartlett, The Bible
Faith and Evidence, a critical enquiry into the nature of biblical
history (London, 1990), pp. 61, 103,-6, 115; Saggs (1969), p. 1. See
also Is. 5:26-30.
 See also below, pp. 35ff.
 Rome and the East 31 B.C - A.D. 337 (Cambridge,
1991), pp. 2227, 487-88. See also his article, "Empire, Community and
Culture in the Roman Near East: Greeks, Syrians, Jews and Arabs,"
Journal of Jewish Studies, 38 (1987), 143-164.
 See Jonah 1:17; 3:4-10. Biblical scholars are of
the opinion that the book of Jonah may have originated in the 5th
century B.C., long after the fall of Nineveh. The venomous oracles of
Nahum, who probably lived and preached about the time of Nineveh's fall,
depict the Assyrian capital as a harlot and relate its punishment to the
sins of Assyrians. See Nahum, 3:4-7, Besides the book of Jonah, there
are almost 120 references on the Assyrians, in 13 other books of the
 Matthew 12:40-41. See also Luke 11:29-30: "For
just as Jonah was a sign for the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be a
sign for the present age." For interpretations of the Jonah story in
Western art and literature, see James Linburg, Jonah: A Commentary
 See "Jonah" in Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish
 Influenced by both Jewish and Christian
traditions, Muslims believe that the prophet Jonah is buried in Mosul,
where a mosque is dedicated to him.
 William C. Emhardt and George M . Lamsa, The
Oldest Christians People (New York, 1926; reprinted by AMS Press in
1970), p. 22. According to the authors, "Abraham was Assyrian" and
Aramaic "is not only the language which Christ spoke, but the language
also, we are told, which God spoke to Adam."
 Tatian not only did not claim to be an Assyrian,
but scholars point out that he was not even born in the lands to the
east of the Euphrates. Tatian (Greeik Tatianos), writes Fergus Millar,
no more came from geographical Assyria than did that other "Assyrian"
with a Latin name, Lucian (Greek Lucianos) of Samosata, Fergus Millar
explains that the terms Assyria and Assyrians were common terms then
from geographical Syria and its inhabitants. See his Rome and the
East,pp. 227, 454-455, 460. Consult also Asmussen, op. cit., p. 927;
Encyclopedia of the Early Church (New York, 1992), under "Tatian";
Patricia Crone and Michael Cook, Hagarism (Cambridge, 1977), p. 197, n.
 See his Iraq After the Muslim Conquest (Princeton,
1984), p. 173.
 The Acts also tells us that young Qardagh, before
his conversion to Christianity, was a Zoroastrian; his father bearing
the Persian name of Gushnavi. When Qardagh became a Christian he was
serving Shapur II as a military governor in geographical Assyria. After
his conversion he, like other martyrs, performed miracles; when faced
with Satan in human form, he cursed him and made the sign of the cross,
turning Satan into a snake. See Mar Aprim, The Nestorian fathers, op.
cit. See also Hagarism, p. 190, n. 71, where in accordance with their
methodology, authors Crone and Cook accept Qardagh's descendance from
Assyrian kings as a believed fact by his contemporaries, making Hagarism
a favorite source book of the modern Assyrian writers. In a letter to
the author , dated June 11, 1997, Patricia Crone wrote that she and
Cook "do not argue that the Nestorians of pre-Islamic Iraq saw
themselves as Assyrians or that this is what they called themselves.
They called themselves Suryane, which had no greater connotation of
Assyrian in their usage than it did in anyone else's...We take it for
granted that they got the modern Assyrian label from the West and
proceeded to reinvent themselves....of course the Nestorians were
Arameans." In their prefatory remarks Crone and Cook, who warn the
non-specialist not to expect a "guided tour" but a pioneering expedition
through some very rough country, also anticipate, "the raised eyebrows"
of the specialists. For reviews of Hagarism, see Oleg Grabar, in
speculum 53, (October, 1978), pp. 795-799; Michael G. Morony, in Journal
of Near Eastern Studies, 41, no. 2, (1982), 159; Joseph Van Ess, "The
Making of Islam," in Times Literary Supplement (September 8, 1978), pp.
997-998. For nationalist references to, and misinterpretation of,
Hagarism, see Odisho Bet Ashur (pen name), "The Continuity of Assyrian
History," Nineveh, v. 17, no. 3 (1994), pp. 16-17, notes 19, 20, 24;
Odisho, Sound Systems, pp. 10, 15-16.
 Odisho, ibid, p. 17.
 "Asurbanipal and the Fall of Assyria" The
Cambridge Ancient History, The Assyrian Empire, v. 3 (1954 reprint), pp.
130-131. See also above, pp. 11f.
 See "Parthia" in ibid., The Roman Republic 133-44
B.C. v. 9, (1962), pp. 597-598. Cf. Odisho Bet Ashur. op. cit., p. 13.
 The Cambridge Ancient History. The Assyrian and
Babylonian Empires, v. 3, pt. 2 (2nd ed., 1991), pp. 189-193.
 During the Parthian period, geographical Assyria,
the lands situated between the Greater and Lesser Zab rivers to the eats
of the Tigris river, were known to Western historians as Adiabene, a
corruption of Hadyab in Aramaic. The Parthian name for Assyria was
Norshirakan, while Northern Mesopotamia was known as Arabistan. See
A.D.H. Bivar, "The Political History of Iran under the Arsacids," in The
Cambridge History of Iran, v. 3, pt. 1 (1983), p. 89. Consult also
Wilhelm Eilers, "Iran and Mesopotamia," in ibid., p. 496. For the
misinterpretation of Hagarism by modern Assyrian writers, see above, p.
 Loc. cit., p. 17.
 Ibid., p. 9 n. 5.
 Cf. Roux, ibid. (1964 edition), pp. 352,
354-355, and pp. 419-420, 423-42 (1992 edition), One of the tenets of
modern Assyrian writers is that it was the Arameans who were
assyrianized and their identity changed. In a recent article, one of
them wrote, one of them wrote that some of the modern Assyrians "rightly
point out that even the idea of the ancient Assyrians adopting the
language of a wandering tribal group is questionable; why would a
civilization as great as Assyria adopt the language of essentially
desert nomads." See Odisho Bet Ashur [pen-name], "The Continuity of
Assyrian History," Nineveh, 17, no. 3 (1994), p. 12. Lately, Assyrian
nationalists have found a supporter in the Finnish scholar Simo Parpola.
In a lecture before the annual Assyrian convention on September 4, 1999,
Parpola told his audience that the Assyrian empire had, in its final
analysis, "never been destroyed at all but had just changed ownership:
first to Babylonian and Median dynasties, and then to a Persian one."
The Assyrian Empire "continued to live on despite the fact that the
Assyrians themselves were no longer in control of it." According to
Parpola, one of whose research interests is to trace the roots of Hebrew
monotheism and Greek philosophy to Mesopotamian and Assyrian origins,
the Christian religion is essentially a religion of the ancient
Assyrians; "many teachings of the Early Church," he said, "were
consonant with the tenets of Assyrian imperial religion. In fact, it can
be argued that many features and dogmas of early Christianity were based
on practices and ideas already central to Assyrian imperial ideology and
religion." Parpola's lecture, reproduced on the Internet on September
17, 1999, is reportedly to be published in the Journal of Assyrian
Academic Studies, vol. xiii, no. 2, 1999. See also his article "The
Assyrian Tree of Life--tracing the origins of Jewish monotheism and
Greek philosophy," Journal of Near Eastern Studies, vol. 52, no. 3
(July, 1993), pp. 161-208. For Hebrew cultural borrowings from
Mesopotamia, see above, pp. 16-17 n. 58.