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Article

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Published in: Chronos: Revue d’Histoire de l’Université de Balaman, no. 19, 2009

Abstract

Many Middle Eastern Christian groups identify or have been identified with pre­Islamic peoples in the Middle East: the Copts with Ancient Egypt, the Nestorians with Assyria, the Maronites with Phoenicians and some RumOrthodoxand other Christians with pre­Islamic Arab tribes. The concern of this study is the Syrian Orthodox Christians or Jacobite(s)(named after the 6th century Monophysite Christian bishop Yacoub Burd‘ono or Jacob Baradaeus of Urfa/Osrohene/Edessa), specifically those whose ancestry stems from the Tur Abdin region of Turkey, Diyarbekir, Mardin, Urfa, and Harput/Elazig. The introduction of the Ottoman milletsystem had divided the Middle East into ethno­religious communities, the Eastern Christian minorities being a classic example. Of the various groups, the Syrian Orthodox Christians (Suryaniler, Suryani Kadim, Asuriler) are a case in point to identity issues including creation, evolution, fabrication, denial, and assimilation caused by both internal and external influences. The identity of this community is a major point of contention among the laity and the clergy, as well as among non­Syrian Orthodox scholars of Middle Eastern Studies.