SYRIAN

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SYRIAN or CHALDEAN CHRISTIANS is the name which the Nestorians give to themselves^ because they use the ancient Syrian in their religious service: they also possess the New Testament in this language. This Christian sect was formed in the fifth century, by the union of the adherents of Nestorius (see Heretic), who had been excommunicated, in 431, by the synod of Ephesus, on account of refusing to call Mary the mother of God, and to give up the doctrine of the existence of two natures in Christ. Though this doctrine of two natures in Christ was soon after received into the creed of the orthodox church, and monophysitism (see Monophysites) was declared heretical, yet the Nestorians, who would only call the virgin Mary the mother of Christ, remained excommunicated, and, towards the end of the fifth century, established their ecclesiastical constitution under the protection of the king of Persia, to whom they had fled. The other Christians in Persia joined them in 499, and they gained many adherents in Eastern Asia, where the Christians of St. Thomas (q. v.) also joined them. In the eleventh century, they converted the Tartar tribe, whose Christian ruler is known in history under the name of Prester John. His people remained attached to Christianity and the Nestorian faith, after having been reduced, in 1202, by Gengis Khan, under the dominion of the Mongols. Until the wars of Timour, in the fourteenth century, there existed, also, in Central and Northeastern Asia, Nestorian communities. The Nestorians are believed to have carried Christianity even to China, as has been concluded from a Christian document of the year 781, found in China; and the connexion of Lamaism with Christianity has also been explained by the influence of Nestorian missions. The chiefs of the Syrian Christians are hereditary patriarchs. The principal one among them resided, in the fifth century, in Babylon; at present, he resides at Elkesh, near Mosul, in Mesopotamia, and has the title Catholicos. Under him are five bishoprics. Ho, and another Nestorian patriarch at Diarb.ekir, in Syria, acknowledge, at present, the supremacy of. the pope, and are, with their flocks, united. Nestorians, who, like the united Greeks, have retained their old rites. They have only been obliged to renounce the marriage of the priests, and to adopt the seven sacraments. The doctrine and worship of the Nestorians agree perfectly with those of the orthodox Greek church, except that they are hostile to pictures in the churches, where they allow no image but that of the cross to be seen. The Syrian patriarch at Giulamork, in the high mountains of Acaria, and the bishr ops and dioceses under him, do not belong to the united Nestorians. The Syrian language is a Semitic dialect, and important for the study of Hebrew. The study of it was first scientifically pursued by Michaelis, the father, then by his son, in 1748, afterwards by the Swede Agrell, and, since that time, particularly by A. Theoph. Hoffmann at Jena [Grammatica Syriaca, Halle, 1827, 4to.).