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 Shatt-il-Arab.
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 language.
The 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 Ancient Mesopotamia.
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.
TOWER OF BABEL
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 Ilamites.
3) 1156-1025 B.C.— The city of Issen will lead the revival of Babylon reaching a remarkable climax with Nabu-kadh-Nassar I (1124-1103 B.C.).
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.”
The 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: ‘Aws.
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 51,7).
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.
The Arch of Ctesphon
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 land.
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 LANGUAGE
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 from Assyria.
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 writing.
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.
Rabban Hormizd Monastery
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 opposing faction.
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 missionaries; and
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 XXI Ishai.
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 tradition; and
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 that fact,
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 “ASSYRIAN”
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 all.
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 generation.