Contemporary Chaldeans and Assyrians:
One Primordial Nation, One Original Church
by the Most. Rev. Sarhad Jammo, Ph.
Ethnicity, Culture and Religion
Christianity entered Mesopotamia from the beginning of the Christian
era, and many natives of that land became Christians. Around 634 A.D.,
Moslem Arabs conquered the region, and Islam was imposed as the religion
of the state, and became gradually thereafter the religion of the
majority; the Arabic language and culture became as well the language
and culture of the majority. Christians remained what they were, i.e.
the descendants of those ancient inhabitants of Mesopotamia and the
heirs of their cultural heritage. Therefore, present-day Chaldeans and
Assyrians are precisely that: ethnically, they are the descendants of
the ancient inhabitants of Mesopotamia; culturally, they are the heirs
of their Aramaic language and heritage.
To be accurate from the start, I must add this clarification:
1) the first wave of converts to Christianity in Mesopotamia have surely
included a segment of the sizable Jewish diaspora of the land;
2) the wars between Persia and Rome resulted sometimes in moving some
Christian captives from Roman land to Persian-ruled land, specifically
the city of Gundisapur in 'Ylam at the eastern bank of today's
These remarks indicate two ingredients in the formation of early
Mesopotamian Christianity, that have merged gradually into the general
Christian population. But we can state quite accurately that the hard
and large core of that early Christianity was formed from the common
population of contemporary Mesopotamia.
Therefore, if we pose again the question: Who are the actual Christians
of Iraq, i.e. the Chaldeans; the Assyrians, as well as the Syrians, from
the civil point of view? The answer should be: They are the descendants
of the ancient inhabitants of Mesopotamia. To the question: What is
their ethnic and cultural background? Then, I would answer: Study the
history of Ancient Iraq; because that same history is their history;
that same culture is their culture; that same Aramaic language is their
stele of King Neram-Seen
THE PEOPLES OF MESOPOTAMIA
THE SUMERIANS— The history of Ancient Iraq is truly
an epic of human endeavor. In 3000 B.C., Sumerians pioneered major
discoveries and inventions. They are the inventors of the first system
of writing, the founders of the first school, the pioneers of
mathematical principles and calculations. From them sprang the first
astronomers and astrologers; the first legislature and jurisprudence;
the first library and the first pharmacy; the first prose and the first
poem; the first irrigation system and the first city plan; the first
principles of morality and the first attempt at theology through
mythology; the first parliament and the first city-state. The Surnerians
are those who made Mesopotamia the Cradle of Civilization.
THE AKKADIANS— Even though the presence of a
culture different from the Sumerian is noticeable some centuries prior
to the emergence of Sargon the Akkadian (2371-2316 B.C.), it was this
great king that effected the turning point in asserting the Akkadian
prominence in Mesopotamia.
It was King Sargon I who unified the Land between the Two Rivers,
including the cities of Ashur and Nineveh in the North, and expanded his
rule to Upper Mesopotamia into Syrian land. Therefore, he is the founder
of the first world empire. Nevertheless, the location of the capital
city of Akkad is, until the present day, the best guarded secret of
Among his children was King Neram-Seen (2291-2251 B.C.), who raised the
Star of Akkad to its peak, expanding his empire to the north and east.
But soon after, Barbarians from the northeastern mountains, the Gootians,
descended and destroyed the Akkadian cities (2211-2120 B.C.)., until a
Sumerian King of Uruk, Auto Hikal, mustered enough force to chase and
destroy their power, reviving for the span of more than a century the
Sumerian rule (2113-2006 B.C.), making Ur the capital city, until the
fading of Sumerian control in 2006 B.C.
IMMIGRANTS AND SETTLERS— The following century
(2006-1894 B.C.) was characterized by the immigration of a wave of
Arnmorites from West of the Euphrates, that came and settled in the
plains between the Two Rivers, where they established several small
kingdoms in the Cities of Essen, Larsa and Ishnuna, until the
establishment in Babel of a new dynasty.
The Swing of Power in Ancient Mesopotamia
1) 1894-1598 B.C.— Babylon, since 1894 B.C., with the
Ammorite King Somu 'yrn, will remain the principal and capital city of
Mesopotamia until 1157 B.C., when it was destroyed by the Ilamites.
Hammurabi was the most famous king of this dynasty (1793-1751 B.C.),
ruling all of Mesopotamia.
2) 1595-1157 B.C.— Kyshies from the Zagrus mountains
ruled in Babylon, forging strong alliances with Assyria against the
3) 1156-1025 B.C.— The city of Issen will lead the
revival of Babylon reaching a remarkable climax with Nabu-kadh-Nassar I
Historians distinguish four periods in the history of Assyria:
1) 3000-2000 B.C.— (Old Assyrian). Assyria was under the influence and
rule of the Sumerians and Akkadians.
2) 2000-1521 B.C.— Assyria attempted autonomy and self-rule, but could
not achieve it, being under Babylonian rule, dearly at the time of
Hammurabi (1793-1751 B.C.).
3) 1521-911 B.C.— (Middle Assyrian). Bozoe Ashur III attempted to
shift the center of power from Babylon to Ashur. His successors did not
always succeed in controlling and ruling the South, particularly
Babylon; nevertheless, it became dear that the political capital of
Mesopotamia was in Assyria.
4) 911-612 B.C.— (The Empire). Assyria became the superpower of the
Middle East, reaching the peak of cultural greatness, military power and
colonial expansion. Illustrious names of Kings: Ashurbanirbal, Sargon
II, Sankhareeb, Assarhadun, etc., will resound highly and eloquently all
over the Earth. The greatest of prophets, Ezekiel (31, 3-9) will speak
out of the wonders of Assyria:
"Consider Assyria, a Cedar of Lebanon, with fair branches and
forest shade, and of great height, its top among the clouds. Under its
branches all the animals of the field gave birth to the young; and under
its shade all great nations lived.
The Cedars of the Garden of God could not rival it, nor the fir trees
equal its boughs; the plane trees were nothing compared with its
branches; no trees in the Garden of God was like it in beauty."
oldest map of the world with Babylon at the center.
Chaldeans 626-539 B.C.- (For best reference, cfr.
Wiseman, D.J., Chronicles of Chaldean Kings (626-556 B.C.) in the
British Museum, London 1956)
Origins of the name: The name "Chaldea, Kaldu, Chaldean, Chaldeans"
appears in historical documents around 900 B.C. Then, we find the
Chaldeans first as Aramaic tribes in the neighborhood of Babylon; later
they conquered Babylon itself in 625 B.C., establishing a splendid
empire, until its collapse in 539 B.C. at the hand of Cyrus the Persian.
The Chaldean empire was the last and most glorious expression of
national identity for the people of ancient Mesopotamia, that is, before
falling under the rule of foreign powers. The fact of having
Aramaic-speaking peoples in North Mesopotamia and Syria, on the one
hand, and in South Mesopotamia on the other, shows that the Aramaic
language originated in the Northwestern bank of the Euphrates in
parallel to the Akkadian language that originated in the Southeastern
banks of the Euphrates. In fact, the Chaldeans are mentioned in the book
of Job (1, 17) as somewhere close to the residence of Job himself in:
In 627 B.C., Nabupalassar, with the help of Chaldean tribes became King
of Babylon, declared independence from Assyria, and allied himself with
the Medees, causing the collapse of the Assyrian empire and the fall of
Nineveh in 612 B.C.; he then expanded the rule of Babylon over all of
Mesopotamia and beyond.
Reconstruction of Processional Road of Ishtar
Nabu-kadh-aassar (604-562 B.C.)— The son of
Nabupalassar, became Chaldean King of Babylon. Under him, Mesopotamia:
1) reached the peak of its greatness and glory; Babylon, its capital,
was recognized as "the pearl of kingdoms, the jewel and boast of
Chaldeans" (Isaiah, 13,19) and was proclaimed as "a golden cup
in the Lord's hand that made all the earth drunken. The nations have
drunken of her wine; therefore the nations are mad." (Jeremiah
2) the Chaldeans, being an Aramaic people, became a major factor for the
spread of the Aramaic language and its alphabet among the peoples of the
Near East, including their Hebrew captives from Judea.
THE FALL OF BABYLON
In 539 B.C., during the reign of King Nabuna'yd, Cyrus the Persian
conquered Babylon putting an end to the Chaldean Empire and to the
national rule in Mesopotamia. The Chaldean Empire was the last national
name of Mesopotamia before falling to foreign powers. Though Mesopotamia
was conquered by foreigners, the city of Babylon remained the capital
and the most illustrious national symbol of the land. Even the Akhmanide
kings added to their title: “King of Babylon and its land”, they
resided in the same palace of Nabukadhnassar. The continuity of the
Chaldean identity persevered not only around Babylon but also in the
establishment of a Chaldean principality of'Udeini long the Euphrates (Ozoreina).
KingAbgar ruled it in 130 B.C.
When Babylon was destroyed and abandoned, a successive capitals (Seleucia,
Ctesiphon, Baghdad) were built in its vicinity as though to take its
role. Sequentially, the ecclesiastic administration of the Church of the
East will follow the same civil line: the Catholicos-Patriarch will have
his see in Seleucia-Ctesiphon, then in Baghdad, adopting the title of
"Patriarch of the See of Babylon".
ALEXANDER THE MACEDONIAN IN BABYLON
(10 June 331-323 B.C.)
Crashing Dara III in the battle of Arbelu in 331 B.C., Alexander
advanced to Babylon which he entered peacefully, and made it the capital
of his empire and his dreams, residing in the Southern Palace of
Nabukadhnassar. In 311 B.C., Seleucius I Nikator became the ruler of
Mesopotamia, He is the one who built Seleucia to substitute Babylon as
the administrative capital. Babylon, being constantly the field of
warring factions, was looted and hit several times during the rule of
Seleucians until it lost its splendor, while maintaining the magic of
her name, until it fell definitely to Methredat the Parthian in 140
B.C., who built a military camp in Ctesiphon in front of the old
Seleucia. It is to be noted that Seleucians tried to acquire the
collaboration of the local population in Babylon by granting special
status to temples and their employees and the priestly class,
restituting to them many confiscated properties. This fact resulted in a
sort of revival of ancient Babylonian culture, where natural science was
mixed with divination. That is the reason for some later Christian and
Jewish authors to attribute to the name "Chaldean" the
allusion to a pagan priest and astrologer.
HISTORIC CONTEXT OF EARLY CHRISTIANITY
Roman Emperor Trajan entered Babylon in 115 B.C., while the Palace of
Nabukadhnassar was still standing, but the dty was deserted. In fact,
the palace stood until the fourth century A.D. The whole region remained
generally under Parthian rule, interrupted with Roman rule intervals,
until 226 A.D. when Ardasher, the Sassanide. killed Artaban V the last
of the Parthian Kings, and entered as conqueror of Seleucia-Ctesiphon in
224 A.D. The Sassanides ruled Mesopotamia until the Arab conquest. The
defeat of the Persians and the victory of the Arabs has been celebrated
and symbolized in the AI-Qadissiya battle, February 19, 636 A.D.
GENERAL AND COMPREHENSIVE REMARKS
A) A first general and comprehensive conclusion should be made:
"The civilization that we are talking about is the product of Iraq
in all of its parts—northern, middle and southern. It is the summary
of all that has been achieved by the ancient Iraqis, in their different
periods. It is not easy for the contemporary scholar to distinguish
between the different element of this civilization, whether they are
Sumerian or Akkadian, Babylonian or Assyrian. It is an ancient Iraqi
civilization, to which the ancient Iraqi have contributed." (Iraq
in History, Baghdad, 1983. pp.181-182).
B) A similar second conclusion should imply that, regardless of the
original provenance of many settlers in Mesopotamia, all of them should
be considered as Mesopotamian, because they were absorbed by the culture
and identity of the land, and produced their achievement on the same
C) Is should be clear that the history of ancient Mesopotamia was formed
and had developed around two principal axes: Babylon, the capital of
Babylonia, in the south but closer to the middle, and Nineveh, capital
of Assyria, in the north. Early periods showed the Babylonian region
playing a leading role, followed by the rising of Assyrian dominance,
with the pendulum returning to Babylon with the Chaldean Empire.
D) While Mesopotamian cities and states, armies and kings, were battling
each other for prominence and dominance, they, in fact, had contributed
to the formation of one united civilization. That unity has been
achieved principally through the usage of one common language that
became a major unifying factor of their civilization.
THE LANGUAGES OF MESOPOTAMIA:THE IMPORTANCE OF THE ARAMAIC
Sumerian language remains a mystery, as far as its origin and possible
linguistic connections are concerned. But the Akkadian language, which
absorbed the writing system and some vocabulary of the Sumerian, is
clearly a "Semitic" language, having many similarities
with Aramaic, Arabic and Hebrew.
Akkadian mingled with Sumerian until it became the lingua franca of
Mesopotamia around 2000 B.C. Ithad two major dialects: the Babylonian
and the Assyrian, each one with three different periods. Aramaic began
competing with Akkadian and absorbing it around the beginning of 1000
B.C., and became the predominant language of the Chaldean Empire, then
moreso with the Akhemides. Nevertheless, Akkadian remained a written
language for many more centuries. If Christians of Iraq—Chaldeans,
Assyrians and Syrians—speak until the present day the Aramaic
language, it is basically for one reason: because they are the
descendants of the ancient inhabitants of Mesopotamia.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE CHALDEAN NAME
In the following centuries, leading to its adoption by Christians of
Mesopotamia to express their ethnic and cultural identity, the Chaldean
nomenclature, is based on the following reasons:
1) The Chaldean Empire is the last national self-rule by the people of
Mesopotamia. It represents the last and most illustrious glory of
ancient Mesopotamia with international repercussion through the ages. It
was the Prince Nabupalassar who led the Chaldean people, surrounding
Babylon, to infiltrate the fabulous city, then control it independently
2) With the Chaldean rule, the Aramaic language became the dominant
language not only of the Mesopotamian population, but of the court and
nobility as well. Though Akkadian language continued to be used by a
minority of conservative scribes for several more centuries, Aramaic
language became gradually the most popular form of communication and
3) With Chaldean rule, Babylon became the first capital of
Mesopotamia, politically, administratively and religiously. Babylon,
because of her unique splendor, became the most illustrious symbol of
Mesopotamia. For those who saw it in the celebrated image of paganism,
it was the most hated and shameful symbol.But, for everyone else,
especially for the children of Mesopotamia, Babylon remains the symbol
par excellence of their land.
CHRISTIANITY IN MESOPOTAMIA
The Establishment of the Church of the East
Christianity spread to Mesopotamia and areas of the Persian Empire as
early as the first Christian century. Many Chaldeans and Assyrians
accepted the Gospel and gradually established the Church of the East.
According to ancient tradition, the Apostle Thomas was the first to
evangelize those regions in his journey to India, followed by Mar Addai,
one of the Seventy Disciples of the Lord, and then by Mar Man, his own
disciple, both coming from the missionary base which was established in
Edessa on the border of Syria and Mesopotamia.
Early in the fourth century, when Mar Papa was the Archbishop of
Seleucia-Ctesiphon, that Episcopal see of the Sassanid capital, settled
its prominence among all Episcopal sees of Mesopotamia and surrounding
areas within the boundaries of the Persian Empire, and soon became the
See of the Catholicos—Patriarch of the Church of the East. During the
fourth and fifth centuries, the prominent centers of learning for this
Church of the East were Edessa and Nisibis in Upper Mesopotamia.
At the beginning of the seventh century, prior to the Islamic conquest
of Mesopotamia (634 A.D.), about one half of the population was
Christian, following the Islamic Conquest, Islam became gradually the
religion of the majority of the population. Christians and Jews were
accepted in the Islamic state and society as "the People of the
Book," and they were organized as religious-social-and-cultural
communities under their own leaders and laws.
During the Patriarchate of Timothee the Great (780-823), when the Arab
Abbasides built Baghdad as the capital of their empire, the Patriarchal
See was transferred to Baghdad. The Abbasides turned to the Christian
scholars of the country for teaching and spreading of sciences and
knowledge, especially in (he field of philosophy, medicine, chemistry,
astronomy and mathematics. The Greek culture had been translated by the
Mesopotamian Christian scholars first to Aramaic-Syriac, then to Arabic,
and eventually reached the West via Spain.
CHURCH OF THE EAST: An Independent Church or an Integral Part
of a Church Catholic?
For the first four centuries of Christianity, the Church of the East
considered itself as an integral part of the Catholic, i.e., Universal,
Church. In the fifth century and later, as a consequence of political
circumstances and Christological controversies, the majority of this
Church accepted the Nestorian Christological formulas—condemned at the
Ephesian Council of 431 A.D.—as a valid expression of the common
faith, thus isolating itself from the church of the Roman Empire, and
therefore was called the "Nestorian Church".
In a millennium of isolation, the Church of the East accomplished the
most prodigious and ambitious missionary expansion of the Middle Ages,
that is between the 7th and the end of the I3th Centuries.
"Nestorian" monks spread the Gospel, together with the Aramaic
alphabet and culture, among the peoples of Khurasan, Azurbeijan,
Afghanistan, Turkumanistan, Mongolia, China, Tibet, India, Japan and the
Philippines. The Stele of Si-Ngan-Fu in China (A.D. 781) and the 611
tombstones discovered in the province of Semiryenchensk in Southern
Siberia, all inscribed in Aramaic Eslrangelo letters, remain eloquent
witnesses of the magnitude of Mesopotamian missionary expansion and
influence. The living remnant of that fervor and shared spirituality are
the three million Indians in Malabar, Kerala, who still follow the
Chaldean Rite. The Mongolian vexations and persecutions in the first
half of the 14th Century, were what decimated the children and the
dioceses of the Church of the East.
At the beginning of the 15th Century, good segments of this glorious
Church, moved by the spirit of renewal, found the road of Rome again
reestablishing the ecclesiastic unity with the Catholic Church in 1553.
Being shrunk to their motherland in Mesopotamia, the descendants of
ancient Babylonians and Assyrians found also the awareness of their
ethnic and cultural identity, resuming the last and most glorious of
their ancestors' names: the Chaldeans. Those who are still separated
from Rome hold the name of Assyrians. Their Church is the Assyrian
Church of the East. Many members of the Chaldean Catholic Church of Iran
prefer to be called "Assyrian Catholics" in order to express
their ethnic background as well as their attachment to their faith.
To be fair to all sides, it is right to say that both names, "Chaldeans"
and "Assyrians" are but two nomenclatures designating, from
two different perspectives, the same people.
EXCHANGE OF POSITION BETWEEN TWO PATRIARCHAL DYNASTIES
A First Phase of Communion with Rome
The period that followed the conclusion of unity agreement with Rome was
a period of bitter struggle, even bitter fight, among the children of
the Church of the East; between the camp of those who were for full
ecclesiastic and canonical communion with Rome, on one side, and the
camp of those opposing it on the other. Youhannan Sulaka, the newly
elected Patriarch, fell martyr for the cause of unity on 12 November
1555 at the hands of agents of the Turkish Pasha of Amadia, of the
In regard to the movement of Catholic unity, we could distinguish three
regions in northern Mesopotamia:
1) the region of Diarbekir, Mardin and Seert. They were the center of
the Unity Movement;
2) the region of Azurbejan including Urmia, Salamas and Hekari. They
were isolated areas and distant from any communication with the Western
3) the Nineveh region, including Rabban Hormizd Monastery, and the towns
and cities of the plain of Mosul. There was a heated struggle between
the two factions here, with the unity faction gaining ground.
After the death of Youhannan Sulaka, Mar "Abdiso" Marun
succeeded him, having his See in Diarbekir until his death in 1567. He
was succeeded by Mar Yahballaha who died in 1580. His successor, Mar
Shimoun DC, the Bishop of Gelo and Salamas, installed his See in St.
John Monastery near Salamas; the same did his successor Shimoun X, while
Shimoun XI and Shimoun XII moved the See to Urmia in the vicinity. After
Shimoun IX, the heredity system was revived again for the hierarchical
succession among the successors of Sulaka.
Mar Youhannan Sulaka 11553-1555
The seal used by
Mar Shimon Dynasty
THE SUCCESSORS OF SULAKA
While communications were very rare between the holy See and the
successors of Sulaka, a tenuous thread of ecclesiastic communion kept
the canonical unity alive, i.e. the professions of faith that each one
of these Patriarchs used to send to Rome. The last of these
letters-professions-of-faith is that of Shimoun XIII, sent to Pope
Clement X in 1670, bearing the title of "Letter of Mar Shimoun,
Patriarch of Chaldeans," (Jamil, pp. 197-200). It was this very
Patriarch who moved his Patriarchal See to Qochanis in Hekari around
1700, severing at the same time all ties with the Roman See.
Nonetheless, the title "Patriarch of Chaldeans" stayed
permanently in the seal of this Patriarch, as well as of all of his
successors bearing the name of Shimoon, until the last one: Mar Shimoon
THE ABOONA DYNASTY
At the same time, the Aboona family continued the succession of
patriarchs for the traditional patriarchal See of the East. Most of
these patriarchs adopted the name of "Elia". They resided in
Alqosh, and were buried in the Patriarchal Cemetery of Rabban Hormizd.
Thus, for the period of more than a century, the Church of the East has
two dynasties of Patriarchs;
a) the dynasty of the Church of the East, remaining in the Nestorian
b) the dynasty of Y. Sulaka, gradually distancing itself from the
Catholic communion, and eventually reverting to the heredity system and
ecclesiastic independence with Shimoun XIII, right after 1670.
The Catholic movement, having lost the Sulaka's dynasty, returned back
to Diarbekir, its original center, and succeeded to gain Mar Yousif, the
Nestorian Bishop of the City, to the unity cause, then obtained for him
the recognition of the Ottoman Sultan as "Patriarch of Chaldeans"
in 1677. His successors were: Yousif II, Yousif III, Yousif IV and
Yousif V. (1803-1827). For Rome, Diarbekir region with its Patriarchs
was not a satisfactory achievement. Simply, because Diarbekir could not
be representative of the Church of the East. Thus, Rome denied
recognition to the last of the Yousifs in Diarbekir.
Rome kept working for an agreement with either of the principal
dynasties: the original dynasty of the Church of the East residing in
Alqosh, and having its continuation with the Aboona family; the other
residing in Qochanis, which was the continuation of the dynasty of Mar
Youhannan Sulaka. In the end, Rome succeeded in concluding a solid
agreement with Mar Youhannan Hormizd Aboona in 1830 and recognized him
as "Patriarch of Chaldeans," whose dynasty continues until the
present day with the Patriarchs of the See of Babylon of Chaldeans. The
dynasty of Qochanis continued its independent course until today with
the Patriarchs of the Assyrian Church of the East.
Mar Raphael I Bidawid AND Mar Dinkha IV
1) The children of the Church of the East, being reduced to Mesopotamia
and adjacent regions, wanted to restore their national and cultural
identity- Rome in its documents and attitude did nothing but recognize
2) the restoration of national identity focused from the beginning on
two names: Chaldean in regard to more generic and cultural elements, and
Assyrian, reflecting the
geographic region of later residence. The choice of denomination
hesitated for over a century between the two.
3) the title of "Patriarch of Assyrians" was first applied to
the successors of Sulaka in communion with Rome; "Patriarch of
Babylon" was used by the Aboona family to indicate the traditional
dynasty of the Church of the East. But later development reversed the
application of the title.
4) The name "Chaldean" was first used by the Mesopotamian
immigrants in Cyprus, then to indicate a general belonging to a Chaldean
nation. Later, in 1670, it was used by Mar Shimoun XIII, whose official
seal reads: "Mhyla Shimoun Patriarka d-Kaldaye", and was
transmitted to his successors of the Mar Shirnoun dynasty in Qochanis.
But when the Mar Yousifs, Patriarchs of Diarbekir adopted the title of
"Patriarch of Chaldeans," and have been recognized as such by
the Ottoman High Gate, it became their prerogative. The same title was
sequentially transmitted to the dynasty of the Aboona family at the
moment of their reunion with Rome.
5) When Anglicans came in touch with the independent Patriarchate of
Qochanis, it was quite convenient to use the name "Assyrian"
as being different from the one used by Catholics, even though the same
term had been in usage in the deals with Rome three centuries earlier.
A SWINGING PENDULUM BETWEEN "CHALDEAN" AND
In his book "An Introduction to the History of the Assyrian
Church", published in London, England in 1910, William Wigram says:
"'Syrian' to an Englishman, does not mean 'a Syriac-speaking man';
but a man of that district between Antioch and the Euphrates where
Syriac was the vernacular once, but which is Arabic-speaking today, and
which was never the country of the 'Assyrian' Church. 'Chaldean' would
suit admirably; but
it is put out of court by the fact that in modern use it means only
those members of the church in question who have abandoned their old
fold for the Roman obedience; and 'Nestorian* has a theological
significance which is not justified. Thus it seemed better to discard
all these, and to adopt a name which has at least the merit of
familiarity to most friends of the Church today." (p. VIII)
Finally, it is our conclusion and consistent position that both names
are correct and valid. The name "Assyrian" is justified:
1) It indicates the geographic region and people, where Christianity has
originated and preserved itself from apostolic times until today.
2) It indicates a great empire and civilization that dominated
Mesopotamia and the whole Middle East from almost a millennium, from
1500 B.C. until the fall of Nineveh in 612 B.C.
3) It is specific and neat in its indication to identity. Nineveh
preserved better than other regions the continuity of Aramaic culture
until recent times.
4) It has a biblical connotation through the story of Jonah the prophet
and his preaching to the Ninevites.
The name of "Chaldean" is justified:
1) It is the last national name reflecting Mesopotamian identity before
having the country conquered by foreigners.
2} The Chaldeans were an Aramaic people; during their rule, the Aramaic
language became the dominant language of Mesopotamia and the lingua
franca of the Middle East.
3) Babylon, or the cities around it (Seleucia-Ctesiphon & Baghdad)
was for most periods of history the administrative, cultural and
symbolic capital of Mesopotamia. In religious as well as civil history,
for Christians and pagans alike, Babylon is the most illustrious name of
4) Compared with the "Assyrian" name, the name "Chaldean"
reflects a more comprehensive and generic identity.
THE MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE
At the dawn of the new millennium, waking up after two centuries of the
last major ecclesiastic split of our people, we have to realize that
having established two ecclesiastic jurisdictions, within the frame of
the legacy of the Church of the East, has led gradually to the formation
of two distinct communities, each one of them having developed different
liturgical practices, as well as variant cultural and social patterns.
Therefore, to restore this Church to its primordial unity, and to bring
its Chaldean and Assyrian people to share, in a united nation, the same
heritage, and walk together toward a common destiny, will require to
deal not only with theological and ecclesiastic matters, but with
cultural and social issues as well. That is the challenge of our