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          Jan 16, 2012


Eastern and Western Scholars referring to the Chaldeans



The usage and origin of the name Chaldean has also been the subject of much acrimonious debate. While this term is generally accepted today as referring to the Roman Catholic off-shot of the Nestorian Church, it has in the past been used as a national name in reference to both branches. 19th century European writers, in order to distinguish between the two churches, have referred to them as Nestorian Chaldeans and Catholic Chaldeans.[12] In 1840, Ainsworth one of the first few non-Catholic Europeans to visit the Nestorians, reported that these people considered themselves Chaldeans and "descendants of the ancient Chaldeans of Assyria, Mesopotamia and Babylonia". In order to distinguish between the two branches of the Church, explained Ainsworth, the term Nestorian was invented in 1681 for those who retained their ancient faith.[13] Austin Henry Layard, who unearthed the ruins of Nineveh during the first half of the 19th century,[14] like Ainsworth, believed that the term Nestorian was coined during the 17th-century schism, noting that the people had always referred to themselves as Chaldean.[15] Layard reported that in the chapel of Rabban Hormizd, where the Nestorian patriarchs once resided, there were tombs of several patriarchs buried there long before the schism; the title carved upon their monuments, he wrote, was "Patriarchs of the Chaldeans of The East.

Horatio Southgate, who was touring the region in the early 1830s, wrote that the Nestorians "call themselves, as they seem always to have done" Chaldeans; indeed, "Chaldean" was their "national name. According to that same source the "Jacobites" were the descendants of the Arameans--"The Syrians whose chief city was Damascus."[21] Smith and Dwight were in error when they asserted that "Chaldean" was the nomenclature adopted in the 17th-century. In the late 17th-century, French Biblical critics Richard Simon spoke of many Christian sects in the East "who bear the name Chaldean or Syrian" and mentioned that most of the Chaldeans "are those whom we call Nestorians" [22] Pope Paul V (1605-1621) wrote to patriarch Elias (Mar Elia) that "A great part of the East is infected by this heresy [Nestorianism], especially the Chaldeans, who for this reason have been called Nestorians."[23] As far back as 1445 the Nestorians of the See of Cyprus were called Chaldeans upon their reconciliation with The Church of Rome.[24]

Why the Nestorians were called Chaldeans? One of the earliest authors who refer to them as "children of the ancient Chaldeans" is Ibn al-'Ibri (Mar Gregorios Yuhanan Bar 'Ewraya, Barhebreus, also known as Gregory Abu al-Faraj), the renowned 13th-century catholicos of the rival West Syrian/Syriac Orthodox (Jacobite) Church. But, as we shall soon see, he used the term in a derogatory manner. Yosef Assemani, the scholar most probably responsible for the propagation of the term Chaldean, had explained simply, and rightly, that "the Nestorians are generally called Chaldean Christians, because their principal, or head church, is in ancient Chaldea."[25]When the Roman Catholic branch of the Nestorian Church was established in the 17th-century, its new primate was styled the "Patriarch of Babylon" for the Chaldeans, another old and dignified title that the Nestorian patriarchs had used when they flourished at Seleucia-Ctesiphon before the advent of Islam.[26] The new catholic patriarch was also referred to as The Patriarch of the Chaldeans of the East, clearly indicating a confusion of geographical and ethnic terms. Some scholars have even suggested that the use of Babylon in the title of the Uniat patriarch is due to the erroneous 17th century identification of modern Baghdad with ancient Babylon.

(Nestorians) were called Chaldeans. The various names by which they were known, and they titles bestowed by the Roman Catholic Church upon their patriarchs, had such other exotic combinations as "Chaldeans of Assyria" and "Eastern Chaldeans of Catholic Assyria" nomenclatures that were "hardly ever used" by the Nestorian patriarchs or their people themselves. They employed such familiar and traditional titles as "Patriarch of the Orient," "Servant of the Seat of mar Addai, Bar Ewraya's reference to the Nestorians as "descendants of the Chaldeans,"[29] a careful reading shows that he used the term to be facetious. He spoke of the Aramaic language as split into various dialects, some of quite unintelligible, such as the dialect of those "wonderful Easterners", "children of the ancient Chaldeans.Another reason for calling the Nestorians "Chaldeans" is that their mother tongue, a dialect of Aramaic, was identified with the so called Chaldean language.

Hormuz Rassam wrote that "the present Chaldeans [members of both the Nestorian Church and it Catholic off-shot], with few exceptions, speak the same dialect used in the Targums, and in some parts of Ezra and Daniel, which are called Chaldee."[32] To bolster his theory that the Nestorians were the descendants of the ancient Chaldeans, Rassam drew up on classical historical sources and asserted that Xenophon had called the inhabitants of northern Mesopotamia "Chaldeans". By "Chaldeans" Xenophon meant the inhabitants of Urartu (the ancient Assyrian/Akkadian name of the mount Ararat which belongs to modern Armenia), who are also known as Haldians, Khaldians, and Chaldeans (after the Urartean god Haldu,)Interestingly, when Xenophon and his ten thousand passed through Assyria just over two-hundred years after the fall of the Assyrian Empire, he found the region sparsely populated and identified the sites of Nimrud and Nineveh as ruined Median cities and referred to their former inhabitants as Medes.[33] "Chaldean" therefore, like "Nestorian" was used long before the 17th century schism and was used in reference to all the East Syrians/Syriacs because of the geographical location of their "head church".

In the 17th century, the Roman Catholic Church abstained from calling the members of the Uniat branch by the "heretical" name Nestorian; the Uniats became Catholic Chaldeans. When the terms Chaldeans and Nestorians were thus strictly differentiated, members of the mother church (Nestorian), claiming the same relationship to the inhabitants of Babylon as their Catholic brethren, began also to use the name Chaldean. Nestorian patriarchs occasionally used "Chaldean" in formal documents, claiming to be the "real Patriarchs" of the whole "Chaldean Church", even though the Uniat branch did not accept the Nestorians claims as lawful.