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Adiabene and Babylon - the Beginnings
Many people assume (wrongly) that the Church of the East is affiliated in some way or other with Eddessa, or even Antioch. The historical facts are that the Church of the East has never had anything to do with the churches in Edessa, let alone Antioch!

The Church of the East began in two major centers - Adiabene (an old Assyrian province in the north of modern-day Iraq) and in Babylon, from where Mar Shimon Keepa wrote his first epistls (Keepa 5:12). Later, the bishop of Babylon became called the "Catholicos Patriarch" of the Church of the East for two reasons: (1) the ordination of the Bishops of Babylon began with Mar Shimon Keepa and (2) it was the capital of the Persian empire.

Here are some historical references:

Quote:One of the earliest centres of Christianity in Persia is said to be Arbel the capital of Adiabene. It was a small Persian border kingdom. Its capital Arbela was about fifty miles east of river Tigris. There is no doubt that the early advance of Christianity in eastern Mesopotamia, as was the case in western Mesopotamia, was upon the ground prepared by the Jews. There was a large concentration of Jews in Arbela and in Nisibis in eastern Mesopotamia. Nisibis which was situated west of Tigris was the seat of a Jewish Academy of learning whose fame was acknowledged in the first century even by the Rabbis in Palestine. Christianity spread in these areas in the first century itself. It is of importance that the Christian faith spread not only in bigger cities but also in the villages on the mountains round about Adiabene.

Looking at the expansion of Christianity in the Parthian empire in such an early period, historians have raised the possibility that Arbela, the capital of Adiabene, if not prior to Edessa, could have been an independent focus, independent of Edessa, for missionary work throughout the Persian empire. In fact there is a theory that Christianity first came to Arbela and from there to Edessa. We have no historical evidence for such a theory. The first century Jewish historian, Josephus mentions that a king of Adiabene accepted Judaism about AD 36. Such a conversion could have made Arbela a natural centre for Jewish Christian mission at a very early date.

T. V. Philip, Professor at the United Theological College, Bangalore, India.

Quote:Robert Murray is also of the opinion that the first Christians in Adiabene were the Jews. According to him Adiabene which was the neighbouring state to Osrhoene had a flourishing Jewish community which made effective converts, the movement culminating in the conversion of the royal household itself in the first century. "Whatever is the truth about Christian origins elsewhere in the Syriac speaking area, the Christianity of Aphrahat and Ephrem is best accountable for a break away movement among the Jewish community in Adiabene. The latter did have historic links with Palestine???" (R. Murray, op.cit., p.8. See also Asahel Grant, The Nestorians or The Lost Tribes of Israel, New York, Harper and Brothers, 1841.)

Quote:Who were the Jews in Persia? Were they descendants of the ???Lost tribes of Israel???? There is a tradition among the Nestorian Christians in Persia that they are the descendants of Israel. But this does not mean that all Christians in Persia were of Jewish origin. Though the initial response was from the Jews, Christianity spread among the Persians. By the third century, according to Mingana, the majority of the inhabitants of Adiabene were Christians, and the majority of these and of the Christians in Persia generally were of Persian and not of semitic or Aramean birth and extraction. (Ibid.. p.8.)
+Shamasha Paul bar-Shimun de'Beth-Younan
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