Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch
- Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch
also called Syrian Orthodox Church, or Syrian Jacobite Church,
body of Syrian Christians who are Monophysites (monophysite
), acknowledging only one nature in Christ; it is administered by the Syrian (Syria
) patriarch of Antioch.
In the 5th and 6th centuries a large body of Christians in Syria repudiated the patriarchs of Antioch who had supported the Council of Chalcedon (451) in affirming the dual nature of Christ. Like many Copts, Ethiopians, and Armenians, these Syrians held the Monophysite doctrine that Christ is not “in two natures” (human and divine) but is “one nature out of two natures.” Accordingly, they set up their own patriarchs of Antioch in opposition to the Chalcedonian patriarchs, whom they called Melchites (“Emperor's Men”). Jacob Baradaeus, bishop of Edessa (d. 578), was instrumental in organizing their community; hence, they have been termed Jacobites. The Monophysite Syrians were also called Syriani, because their doctrine was associated with the Syriac language after it had died out among Greek-speaking people; the Greek Orthodox Syrians, on the other hand, were known as Rūmī (Arabic
After the Arab conquest of Syria (7th century), each church in the caliphate and in Muslim states generally was treated as a millet, or religious community, governed by its own laws and courts under its own clergy. The Syriani were recognized as the West Syrian millet (the East Syrian millet being the Assyrians, or Nestorians). Since the 17th century, when a minority of them were united with Rome and became the Syrian Catholics, the rest of the West Syrians have been known as Syrian Orthodox, although they remained distinct from the Chalcedonian “Greek Orthodox” Christians of the area. Their liturgical language is the literary Syriac of Edessa, which they preserve as a living tongue, a close relative to the Aramaic spoken by Jesus Christ and his Apostles.
The Syrian Orthodox patriarch of Antioch has very seldom lived in Antioch itself; his usual residence was the monastery of Dayr az-Zafaran near Mardin, near Diyarbakır in eastern Turkey. During World War I most of the Syrian Jacobites left Turkey, and their patriarch moved to Ḥimṣ (1921) and then to Damascus (1959). They now live in Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria, and in smaller numbers in Jordan, Egypt, and the United States.
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