JACOB EUGIN MANNA'S
PART I (Section -1)
Written by Henry Bedros Kipha
THE ARAMEAN KINGSHIP
Ninety years have now elapsed after Jacob Eugin Manna
edited his dictionary called An Introduction to the Aramaic Language
for the Interested. It was a difficult but great achievement, and
therefore, Rafael Bidawid, the Patriarch of the Chaldeans had a
second edition printed in 1975.
It is common knowledge that Bishop manna wrote a Preface that was
several pages long about the Syriacs, or, as they were originally
called, the Arameans and about the Syriac, or, as it was originally
called, the Aramiaic language. This preface b Mc arne widely known
among the Syriac elite. The reason for this was its wealth of
historical information which was important to the Syriacs.
This information was accepted altogether without a critical scrutiny
by the Syriac elite.
The fact that it was not scrutinized resulted in incorrect
information not being contradicted, and was damaging to the written
history of the Aramaean people. Today's Arameans want to study their
history on a scientific basis.
I have found it very inportant to correct som facts in the Preface.
We ought to remind ourselves that the Preface was written at the
beginning of the twentieth century, while we are now heading towards
the twenty-first century, which is an age that does not permit the
history of the Syriac people to be falsified or weakened.
Bishop Manna wrote as follows in his Preface., l)".....all
tribes......were known by the name of Aram or Arameans. It is true
that some of the tribes also had special names. Like Chaldeans, as
the inhabitants of Babylon were called, or Assyrians, as the
inhabitants of the kingdom of Assur were called. or Edomites as the
inhabitants of Damascus were called.
Common to them all was the Aramean name..... thus the Chaldeans and
Assyrians are Arameans, or, the official language of their kings
would not be Aramaic".
These few lines are repeated with historical errors. Bishop Manna
has mixed up the ancient Assyrians and the ancient Chaldeans.
I shall begin my article with a few formal corrections.
The history of the ancient Assyrians began in the fourth millennium
B.C. while the Chaldean tribes were not mentioned until 878 B.C.
This could be seen from the writings of King Assurbanipal II
The ancient Assyrians
abandoned their tribal life early and settled down in northern Iraq
to east of the Tigris and in the mountainous areas. They were a
mixture of the inhabitants of the ancient Assyrian country and
remnants of the Hurrians , the Mitanni and the Amorites.
The Chaldean tribes came from the west (from the Syrian desert) in
the second millennium B.C. Most of today’s historians now regard
them as Aramean tribes. It was also commonly known that these
Chaldean and Aramean tribes fought against the Assyrian occupying
power during several hundred of years. It is also commonly known
that the ancient Assyrians spoke Akkadian and used the cuneiform
writing but then in official matters began to use the Aramaic
language verb all y as well as in writing. From the 8th century up
to the end of the 7th century BC. a great part of the Assyrians
began to use the Aramaic language owing to its simplicity and
because of the great number of Arameans and Chaldeans amongst the
inhabitants of the country 2).
Today's historians consider that the Chaldean tribes began to speak
Aramaic when they began to govern Babylonia however, they adopted
Akkadian names like the Babylonians.
We ought to remember that these tribes came from the west and that
if they were not Aramean tribes, they were at least very closely
related to the Arameans.
Historians agree that the Aramaic language was widely spread in
Babylonia long before the downfall of the Assyrian empire. Also the
Jews who lived in captivity in Babylonia, as is well known, spoke
Aramaic. Manna's view about the ancient Assyrians were Aramaean
tribes was incorrect. The fact that the Assyrians used Aramaic in
matters of state, which Bi shop Manna looked upon as proof that they
were Arameans, obviously does not mean that they were Arameans. AIso
the Persians used Aramaic in writing, but I do not belive that
anybody would opine that the Persians were Arameans.
Manna further wrote in his Preface:
"All through the ages, Babylonia and Assyria were called Bet
Aramaye, i.e. the land of the Arameans. This applied even when the
Arabs took over these lands, 3).
It is true that Bet Aramaye has become a synonym with Iraq,
something which is clearly seen in the writings of the East-Syriac
church, for instance in Elia, Bishop of Nsibis; "At that time
Muawiya set up Ziad Ibn-abihi as a ruler over the country of the
Arameans (Bet Aramaye), 4).
Everyone who researches into the history of the church in the
Orient, especially ifhe or she makes a study of the ancient Syriac
documents, would find that the Syriacs were divided into two halves.
A-The East Syriacs, who form today's Chaldean and Assyrian Churches.
B-The west Syriacs, who form today's Syriac Orthodox, Catholic,
Maronite, and Melchite churches.
The Syriacs both in the east and in the west, were however, proud of
their Aramean origin this was made clear in several rep orts by
Bishop Manna. Starting from the fact the documents called Iraq the
country of the Arameans, he drew the conclusions that the ancient
Assyrians were Arameans as ancient Assyria was part of Iraq (Bet
Aramaye). Manna was wrong as regards the ancient Assyrians.
They were no Arameans. However this does not mean that all that he
wrote was wrong. He made it cIear that Iraq was the country of the
Arameans. The scholars of the East Syriac Church were renowned for
their Syriac-Aramaean identity. The East Syriac Hasan Bar BahlouI
(Nestorian) from the tenth century B.C. wrote in his dictionary: '
'which means in English: "The Syriacs were called in the old times,
called Arameans". Elia bishop of Nsibis wrote in the 12-th century
B.C." AI-Hajjaj gave orders that the Christians should not install a
church leader, and the church of the country of the Arameans
remained without a head until al-Hajjaj's death, 5).
It is remarkable that not a single historian tried to find out why
Iraq was called the land of the Arameans, 'Bet Oromoye". Thanks to
the achievements of the European historians in the field of Aramean
history especially their success in translating the old Assyrian
writings, which tell us quite a lot about the Aramean kingdoms we
can now answer the question under reference. Iraq was called the
country of the Arameans, 'Bet Oromoye", because of two main reasons:
firstly owing to the presence of a large number of Aramean and
Chaldean inhabitants amongst the population of Mesopotamia, and
secondly, because of the assimilation of other peoples of the
country into the Aramaean people that was going on. The Aramaic
language, the Aramaean civilization, and then the Christian Creed
were factors that influenced this assimilation process.