« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
ages the knowledge of any such church or community was lost to the European world. But when the Portuguese arrived in India in 1498 they found to their surprise, upwards of one hundred Christian churches on the coast of Malabar. “These churches," said they, , “belong to the Pope.” “Who is the Pope ?" said the natives; “We never heard of him.”
The Christians of Malabar used an ancient Syriac Liturgy. They jealously preserved ancient manuscripts of the Peshitto version of the Scriptures. They knew nothing of “the Latin Obedience," the Latin liturgy, or the Latin scriptures. Skirting the vast realms of heathenism that lay back of them, they were witnesses for thetrue scriptures and the gospel of the Son of God.
When the Portuguese "became sufficiently strong they invaded these churches, and condemned some of the clergy to death as heretics. Then for the first time the Syrians of Malabar heard of the Inquisition and its fires at Goa. One Bishop was burned, and another sent prisoner to Lisbon.
In 1599 the Roman Catholic Archbishop Menezes convened a synod at Diamper, or Udiamparua, near Cochin, in a church still standing It was there laid to the charge of the one hundred and fifty Syrian clergy present, that they had married wives; that they owned only two sacraments,—baptism and the Lord's Supper; that they neither invoked saints nor worshiped images nor believed in Purgatory. These tenets they were called upon to abjure. And though no Bibles were destroyed, it was decreed that all the Syrian books on ecclesiastical subjects should be burned, "in order that no pretended apostolical monuments might remain."
The churches on the sea-coast, helpless under compulsion, acknowledged the supremacy of the Pope, but refused to pray in Latin, and insisted on retaining their own language and liturgy. The churches in the interior refused to yield to the decree, or after a show of submission, proclaimed eternal war against the inquisition, hid their books, fled occasionally to the mountains for refuge, and sought protection of the native princes, who had always been proud of their alliance. Some also who had yielded to Rome, wearied of the bond, and on May 22nd, 1653, held an assembly at Alingatte, when a host of them, headed by the Metropolitan, left the Romish communion. In 1663, Malabar was conquered by the Dutch, and thus they were relieved from the fear of Romish oppression, but remained in obscurity for generations, until in 1806, Dr. Claudius Buchanan, desiring to learn something of the condition of this ancient people, investigate
their literature and history, collect Biblical manuscripts, and open ways for them to translate the Seriptures into the native languages of India; under authority from Lord Wellesley, proceeded to the hills at the bottom of the Ghauts which divide the Carnatic from Malayála, now known as Travancore and Malabar.
On arriving there he found numerous Christian churches, and ap proaching a town in the evening he heard the sound of bells among the hills, which he says, “made me for a moment forget that I was in Hindostan, and reminded me of another country. The first Syrian church which I saw was at Mavelikar. The Syrians here had often been visited by Romish emissaries. They had heard of the Eng. lish, but supposed that they belonged to the church of the Pope. They could not believe that I was come with any friendly purpose. I had some discussion with a most intelligent priest in regard to the original language of the Gospels, which he maintained to be Syriac."
“« How shall we know,' said he, “that your standard copy of the Bible is a true translation ? We cannot depart from our own Bible. It is the true book of God, without corruption, that book which was first used by the Christians of Antioch. What translations you have got in the West, we know not; but the true Bible of Antioch we have had in the mountains of Malabar for fourteen hundred years, or longer. Some of our copies are from ancient times, so old and decayed that they can scarcely be preserved much longer.””
“You concede,' said he, that our Saviour spoke in our language; how do you know it?' From Syriac expressions in the Greek Gospels. He spoke Syriac when He walked by the way (Ephphatha), and when He sat in the house (Talitha Cumi), and when He was upon the cross (Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani). The Syrian was pleased when he heard that we had got their language in our English books. But,' added he, “if the parables and discourses of our Lord were in Syriac, and the people of Jerusalem commonly used it, is it not marvellous that His disciples did not record His words in the Syriac, and that they should have recourse to the Greek?' I observed that Greek was then the universal language, and therefore Providence selected it. • It is very probable,' said he that the Gospels were translated immediately afterwards into Greek, as into other languages; but surely there must have been a Syriac original. The poor people in Jerusalem could not read Greek. Had they no record in their hands of Christ's parables which they had heard, and of his sublime discourses recorded by St. John after his ascension?' I acknowledged that it was believed by some of the learned that the Gospel of St. Matthew
was written originally in Syriac. So you admit St. Matthew -you may as well admit St. John. Or was one Gospel enough for the inhabitants of Jerusalem ?' I contended that there were many Greek and Roman words in their own Syriac Gospels. True,' said he, Roman words for Roman things.'”
“At Chinganúr I was received at the Church by three Presbyters, and the people came round me. The sight of the women assured me that I was once more in a Christian country. In every countenance I thought I could discover the intelligence of Christianity. I said to the senior priest, You appear to me like a people who have known better days. It is even so,' said he; the glory of our Church has passed away, but we hope your nation will revive it again.' I observed that the glory of a Church could never die, if it preserved the Bible. We have preserved the Bible,' said he, but the learning of it is in a low state. Our copies are few in number; and the writing out a whole copy of the Sacred Scriptures is a great labour. I then produced a printed copy of the Syriac New Testament. Not one of them had ever seen a printed copy before. They admired it much; and every priest, as it came into his hands, began to read a portion fluently, while the women came round to hear. I asked the old priest whether I should send them some copies from Europe. "They would be worth their weight in silver,' said he. He asked me whether the Old Testament was printed in Syriac as well as the New. I told him it was, but I had not a copy.
They professed an earnest desire for some copies of the whole Syriac Bible, and asked whether it would be practicable to obtain one copy for every church. The priest said, “The Syriac is now only the learned language, and that of the Church, but we generally expound the Scriptures to the people in the vernacular' (Malayalim).”
At Kandenad, the residence of Mar Dionysius the Metropolitan, an eminently pious man, Dr. Buchanan spoke of preparing a translation and printing the Holy Scriptures in Malayalim, and received the heartiest assurance of approval and co-operation. In Angamale, one of the most remote Syrian towns, he found many valuable manuscripts; among them one large folio, having three columns on a page, containing the Old and New Testaments, written with beautiful accuracy upon strong vellum. He says: “I scarcely expected that the Syrian church would have parted with this manuscript, but the Bishop was pleased to present it to me, saying, It will be safer in your
hands than in our own. And yet, said he, we have kept it as some think for near a thousand years."
“I wish,” said Dr. Buchanan, “that England may be able to keep it a thousand years." This copy is now at Cambridge in England.
When Dr. Buchanan returned in failing health to England, he appealed to the Bible Society for an edition of the Scriptures in Syriac; for though he wished to send a copy to the Syrian Bishops as an earnest of more to come, he could not find one copy of the Syriac Bible in a separate volume for sale in the entire Kingdom.
In 1807, Dr. Buchanan visited Travancore a second time, and carried the manuscript of Archbishop Dionysius's translation of the New Testament into Malayalim, to Bombay to be printed. Five thousand copies of the Gospels were printed at the expense of the British and Foreign Bible Society, and within the last seventy or eighty years, between three and four hundred thousand Bibles or portions of the same have been printed by the Bible Society in Malayalim for the use of these Syrian Churches—which according to the government census of 1836 numbered 118,382 souls, while the Romo -Syrians numbered 56,184.
Several editions of the Syriac Bible and the New Testament have since been published, in England and America, and the Syriac version has received some degree of the attention which its importance and its merits demanded. But the accessible manuscripts were few, and facilities for careful, critical study of the Text were yet lacking ; yet He who had so wondrously watched over this version of the Sacred Scriptures, had other witnesses to its purity and integrity, to be brought to notice in due time.
IV. THE SYRIAN CHRISTIANS OF URUMIAH. Starting at a little distance from the site of old Nineveh, on the eastern bank of the Tigris, opposite the present city of Mosul, there stretches away to the north-east a mountainous region, extending a hundred and fifty miles toward Lake Urúmiah,-a body of salt water some eighty miles in length, and thirty in breadth, on the western shore of which is a magnificent fertile plain, situated in the province of Urúmiah, at the eastern base of the Kurdish mountains. It is about forty miles in length, lying upon the central section of the lake, and about twenty miles wide in its broadest parts. Twelve miles back from the lake, and two miles from the mountains, lies the city of Urúmiah, the ancient Thebarma, the birth place, according to tradition, of Zoroaster, founder of the religion of the fire worshipers; and a possible confirmation of the tradition is found in the fact that there are on different parts of the plain several artificial mounds, covering an acre or more each, rising to a height of from fifty to seventy feet which appear like vast piles of ashes accumulated in the lapse of many centuries, from the perpetual fires connected with their worship.
In this city of Urúmiah, among a population of from thirty to forty thousand, is a community known as Nestorians,* comprising five or six hundred souls. Upon this great plain, with adjacent declivities of the mountains, comprising an area of about six hundred square miles, are scattered some three hundred and thirty villages; and among these villages are also numbers of Nestorians.
Besides these, in other provinces and in the wildest parts of the Kurdish mountains, in districts so rough that only the most sure footed mule can travel over them, are scattered communities of the same lineage and faith. The whole number of this peculiar people has been estimated at about 140,000. They are of good stature, with regular, manly, intelligent features, dark complexion, and are bold, generous, kind, brave, and as independent as they can be under Mohammedan rule.
Their vernacular, though corrupted and barbarized by Persian, Syriac, Kurdish, and Turkish words, is regarded by modern scholars, in the words of Dr. William Wright, of Cambridge, England," as a representative of the old Eastern Aramaic, not descended directly from the more ancient language we usually call Syriac, but from a lost sister tongue.” But the Ancient Syriac has been for ages their literary and ecclesiastical tongue; their correspon dence is often conducted in it; their Holy Scriptures and Church Rituals, as well as nearly all other books they may have, are written in the ancient Syriac, and their educated clergy are able to converse in that tongue.
This community, known as Nestorian, though they reject the *In using the names assigned to these different religious bodies, it is only just to remind the reader that they are not always accepted by the people to whom they are applied. The so called Nestorians refuse to bear that title, the Nestorian Bishop, Mar Yohannan, saying to the missionary Justin Perkins, “We shall very soon be at war if you do not cease calling us Nestorians.” They declare themselves not the followers of Nestorius, hut Syrian or Chaldean Christians, complaining that the church of Rome has arrogated that name and applied it to a few of their number who had been withdrawn from their communion by Roman Catholic missionaries./Dr. Southgate, in his visit to the Syrian church of Mesopotamia says: “They are not properly Eutycheans; they discard the name of Jacobites as not properly applicable to their churches. The Patriarch once rebuked me for calling his people Jacobites, and said it was a term given them by their enemies. The Latins do their utmost to fix it
upon them.” It seems to have been a favorite device of the devil for ages to nick-name, and thus separate and persecute the people of God, for whose unity the Saviour so earnestly prayed. Perhaps the pious reader will approve this sentiment of John Bunyan:
you desire to know by what name I wish to be called, I desire to be, and I hope I am, a Christian; and I desire, if God should count me worthy, to be called a Christian, a believer, or any other such name which is sanctioned by the Holy Ghost. And as for those factious titles of Anabaptists, Presbyterians, Independents, and the like, I believe they came neither from Jerusalem or Antioch, but rather from hell and Babylon, for they naturally tend to divisions, and ye may know them by their fruits."