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Nov 07, 2006 



PART I  (Section -1)

Written by Henry Bedros Kipha



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.

I- 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

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.