Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Patriarchate of Antioch according to Mikhail Burayk

Immediately after the passage about Saints Peter and Paul, Burayk gives the following information about the Patriarchate of Antioch:

At that time there were only three patriarchs: the patriarchs of Antioch, of Rome, and of Alexandria. The patriarch of Antioch had primacy over all of Asia Minor and Major, which is Anatolia, from Uskudar [that is, the Asian side of Constantinople] and the rest of the lands along the east of the Mediterranean to the furthest east, and from all the lands around the Black Sea in every direction to Jerusalem and its dependencies.
Later, at the first Great Council in Nicaea, the emperor Constantine the Great asked from the fathers that they grant Mitrophan, the bishop of Pontus, with the honor of being a patriarch, so he took from the lands of Asia part of the lands that were close to him. Then Constantine gave the Church of Antioch sixty-three thousand measures of grain each year and he gave Eustathius, patriarch of Antioch, [a document] with the imperial signature so that this donation to the patriarchs of Antioch from the Roman emperors would continue forever. Then that emperor decreed that a very great church be built in Antioch.
Then the second and third councils passed. At the fourth council in Chalcedon, Anatolius, patriarch of Constantinople, took from Maximus, patriarch of Antioch, the rest of the lands of Asia Major, from the border of Uskudar to Malatya. However, Leo, pope of Rome, was vexed at this dishonor happening to the Apostolic See of Antioch. Also, when God wished at the fifth council for Jerusalem to become a patriarchate, Maximus, patriarch of Antioch, gave Juvenaly, bishop of Jerusalem, the two Palestines, over which he had had primacy from the time of the Apostle Peter, in the presence of all the fathers who were at that council.
After all this, at that time there were in the eparchy [abrashiyya] of Antioch one hundred fifty-three bishops [rais kahana], the number of fish which came from the apostolic net in Lake Tiberias. Besides this, there were the four great catholicosates over which the patriarch of Antioch had primacy. The first catholicos is of Seleucia in Babylon and all the lands of the east to India. In this eparchy there were more than one hundred bishops. The second is the catholicos of Greater Armenia and its dependencies, in which there were two hundred bishops. The third is the catholicos of the Georgians, who has primacy over countless tribes and peoples. The fourth is the catholicos of the Khata and the Khatiyya, who are in the furthest east and north. Additionally, [the patriarch of Antioch] had primacy over the island of Cyprus until the time of the fifth council, when they granted its archbishop [rais asaqifa] the honor of sole primacy [over the island]. Thus was the eparchy of Antioch.

Here perhaps the most interesting detail is the catholicosates. While in modern times the head of the Church of Georgia bears the title of catholicos-patriarch and the heads of the Armenian Church and the Assyrian Church of the East bear the title of catholicos, these are relics of their former status under the patriarch of Antioch. The catholicosate, in the sense used in the passage above, in some ways resembled the status of the autonomous churches of today. That is, geographically and culturally far outside what could reasonably be managed from Antioch, the catholicoses had personal authority over their own bishops while still being canonically dependent on the patriarch in Antioch. Of the four catholisates mentioned above, three remained probably until the arrival of the Mongols in the thirteenth century. Armenia, of course, went into schism in the fifth century in the aftermath of the council of Chalcedon. The history of Georgia’s autocephaly is a complicated affair, having been claimed from very early times, but was only confirmed once and for all by the patriarchate of Antioch in the eleventh century (I hope to return to this topic at some point). While the original catholicosate of Seleucia went into schism with the rest of the Church some time after the council of Ephesus, there was at least in the Islamic period an Orthodox catholicos in Baghdad for the Orthodox communities in Iraq and Persia, many of which were made up of Byzantine prisoners of war and whole communities from border regions who were resettled by the caliphs. The words ‘Khata and Khatiya’ are unidentifiable for both myself and the editor of Burayk’s text. It most likely refers to the Catholicosate of Romagyris, which is known to have been located in Central Asia and is usually identified with the site of modern Tashkent.

On the matter of Orthdox Christians in Central Asia, see L'église melchite en Iraq, en Perse et dans l'Asie centrale (Jerusalem, 1976) by the Greek Catholic scholar Joseph Nasrallah, as well as the New Cambridge Medieval History, vol. 4, p. 578.


Isa Almisry said...

Might "Khata and Khatiya" refer to Caucasian Albania, which had its own catholicos as well, which survived in reduced form into modern times? The endomyn/autonym of the Albanians, AFAIK, remains unknown, although their language has now been found among the MSS. at Sinai.

Samn! said...

Actually, that's a pretty good hypothesis... I'll admit that I don't know the necessary materials (especially Armenian church-histories-- a better-informed friend of mine has argued that they sometimes appear to draw on Caucasian Albanian sources) well enough to pursue it further...

Collator said...

Seeing this a bit late -- I was under the impression that the actual presence and jurisdiction of an Orthodox metropolitan in Baghdad was disputed among scholars. I've read some of the late Fr. Nasrallah's stuff on the subject but one of my friends assured me that he is far too enthusiastic in his speculation about the jurisdiction of the medieval Melkite bishop of Baghdad.

Samn! said...

The Life of the Patriarch Christopher, written probably in the first quarter of the 11th century, is quite explicit and detailed about the circumstances surrounding the creation of a Melkite Catholicosate of Baghdad earlier in that century.

Likewise, in Patriarch Peter III's correspondence with Dominic of Grado, he mentions having suffragan bishops with more bishops under them both in Baghdad and Khorasan...

So, I think this literary evidence about the Melkite hierarchy in Baghdad seems to square pretty well with what we know about the existence of a stable Melkite community in Iraq and Central Asia from the 8th century on from Muslim sources-- most famously, of course, Biruni's copy of the Melkite liturgical calendar from Khorasan, which by his time in the 11th century had a number of indigenous feasts and saints.

Where one might criticize Nasrallah is his speculation about a substantial Melkite presence in Iraq prior to the Abbasid period, but to my mind that there was a developed hierarchy in Iraq and the western part of Central Asia in the Abbasid period seems more than likely.