A People of Many Names (Nineveh, Volume 5, Number 4)
By: Arthur S. Chavoor (Nineveh 4th Quarter 1982)
Publish Date: 10/1/1982
Since the fall of Nineveh in 606 B.C. to the present time, the Assyrian, the inhabitant of an empire that engulfed some 75,000 square miles and extended to the Mediterranean in the west and to the Black Sea in the north, has been called by many names, but rarely by his rightful name. Depending upon the period of history and those who have been and are responsible for the writing of history, these loose appellations and misnomers for ethnic, linguistic and religious identification have come so numerous and so fast that the Assyrian has been stunned and stupefied to the extent of great confusion, forcing him to arbitrarily acquiesce to, and even advocate the propagation of their use almost entirely. This condition has left a people that once numbered in the tens of millions in a state of division, disunity and hatred and has rendered what was once a homogeneous nation into a comparatively few people, only numbering in the thousands, and left them in a seemingly heterogeneous mass. Loose appellations and misnomers, such as Aramaean, Aramaic, Syrian, Syriac, Nestorian, Jacobite, Chaldean, Maronite, Melkites and now SyroAramaean have been let loose in thin air, without any ties, like a flotilla of balloons. Thinkingly or unthinkingly they have failed to state the Aramaean is an Assyrian Aramaean, that the Aramaic is the Assyrian language written in an alphabet founded among the , Assyrian Aramaean, that a Syrian is an Assyrian who inhabited the Hellenized territory from the fourth century D.C. of Assyria, that Syriac was a designation given to the Assyrian language used by the Christian Assyrians in contrast to Aramaic used by the non-Christians and which as a matter of fact is the same language, that Nestorian was and is an Assyrian whose religious belief was that of the Church of the East, established some three centuries before the birth of Nestor, that Jacobite's was an Assyrian whose religion was that of the Monophysite Church of Antioch, that Chaldean, Maronite and Melkite are members of a religion subordinate to the Church of Rome, but are ethnically Assyrian.
A few years ago, Justice William• O. Douglas of the U. S. Supreme Court on an extended tour of the Middle East, wrote that he visited that ancient City of Arbela, an Assyrian city, and therein met Nestorians, Jacobites, Chaldeans and Armenians. He gave the ethnic or national name of the Armenians, but failed to find out, what the ethnic name of the others was. He thought they were some sort of creatures, living among the Arabs who have claimed this city of the Assyrians as their own. In 1846, when Layard, the archaeologist who discovered the buried city of Nineveh, and a presupposedly eminent Assyriologist, referred to his employees who were excavating the site as the Nestorian Chaldeans and not Assyrians. In all honesty, we cannot chide or blame these people, for they know no better. We must chide and lay the blame on the Assyrian who knowingly accepts the misnomers without objection and rejection and does not even make a small try to correct. Let us consider the case of the Assyrian Tatian, the writer of the first Diatessaron about 150 A.D. He asserted positively that he was an Assyrian and Epiphanius, the historian, so quoted, but others Greeks, Romans and even Hellenized Assyrians still insisted on calling him a Syrian. Some said maybe he is an Assyrian because he was born on the east bank of the Tigris River. To this day the situation is the same. Except for the Armenians, whose language and alphabet is comparatively new (fourth century A.D.) no other, writers have called the Assyrian by his rightful name. In the Armenian "Assorie", Assyrian in the English, is kept to this day to designate all Assyrians, irrespective of their religious appellations.
For more than three decades, I have tried to arouse the Assyrian, to the best of my ability, to forbear from the use of these loose appellations and misnomers, but it seemed to be of no avail until in the past few years new hope came with the advent of new occurrences. The question of Syrian or Assyrian came in the 1950s, the Rev. Elias Sugar, a priest in the West New York Church of the Apostolic Church of Antioch was excommunicated by the Hierarchy for his insistence in calling the church the Assyrian instead of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch. The Hierarchy very determinedly and insistently uses this misnomer and is very adamant against any attempts for correction. For the same reason, the Very Rev. Peter Barsoum was reprimanded and his Church in Worcester, Mass. was without a priest for over six months. Both of these priests are now deceased. More recently, the priests are using the word Assyrian , more freely for the Church, language, etc., from the pulpit and the Rev. I. Tabbakh of the Church of Montreal, Canada, as guest speaker at the 50th anniversary celebration of St. Mary's Assyrian Apostolic Church in Worcester, Mass. stated very emphatically to a gathering of some three hundred people, including many other Assyrian clergy and clergy of other denominations, that all these loose appellations and• misnomers must be deleted and totally eradicated from our vocabulary and that of other writers, and only the name ASSYRIAN must be used in the English language. There was a tremendous applause from the floor and head table. • Rev. Shamoun Asmer of the Worcester Church asserted • the same thought sat the cathedral of Pines in N.H. (see, Sept.-Oct. Star). These are just a few of many of such assertions by the clergy and the faithful of the Church. Outbursts of this proportion bode no good for an adamant Hierarchy and the Hierarchy, at this time, should sit , up and take notice and comply amiably with the request, or let us be more emphatic and say, the mandate of the , people or there will no longer be people or Church for it I to be the Hierarchy of.
Again, more recently, the front cover page of the, Sept.-Oct. issue of the Star with the picture and the, notation under of Mar Raphael J. Bidawid. Chaldean (Assyrian) Bishop of Beirut, Lebanon; the article of Prof. Asshur Yousuf, and the notations of Dr. Perley; the review of Miss Riskalla and the writings of Mr. Fred Tamimi in other issues, bodes good tidings to us all who have set our goal for unity, primarily by creating a MONONOMER people of all Assyrian stock. The article of Rev. Eshoo Paul Sayad, in the Oct. issue of Beth Nahrain also is included in the above category; it also advocates MONONOMERISM. To substantiate our contentions, re loose appellations and misnomers we should now analyze, logistically, the genealogy of the people so called. We will first consider the names "Aramaean" and "Syrian." The word "Aram," according to, all scholars of Biblical language, is taken from a root meaning "swell," "rise," "high." For instance, the name "Abram” broken up into its two components "Ab-Ram" means "Father-High" or "High Father,""Abo""Father," "Ram" "High." Therefore, "Aram" is "Highland" and "Aramaean" is a "Highlander." A highlander is not a designation of a nationality or of an ethnic group. A highlander can be of any nationality, for example, the "Highlanders of old Scotland" or the "mountaineers of Kentucky." Now, just what was the genealogy of the highlanders of the Assyrian Empire? Thus far, to my knowledge and too many others, no history has ever proven authentically as to' who the Aramaens were or where they came from to inhabit the "higher lands" of Assyria and Her Empire. Were they there at the beginning of history? There is no mention of these highlanders in written history until about 1100 B.C. when Takuliti Palesharra, king of Assyria, mentions his campaign in "the West against the "Aramaean Riverland," that is the, higher lands along the River Euphrates. If one looks on , a contour map of the Assyrian Empire, one can see that I whenever an Aram is mentioned in history or in the • Bible, such as, Aram Soba, Aram Ma'aka, Aram Beth Rehob, Aram Naharaim, Padden Aram, Aram Damas" cus, etc., that they are ALL located in the higher lands of that region. These "highlanders" were of Assyrian stock, who had migrated to the higher lands towards the North, and West of Nineveh, just as the founders of Nineveh had done before them, migrating from the South because of climatic and other reasons. It is recorded in the Bible (Gen., 10-11. These "highlanders," as deciphered from Takuliti-Palesharra's inscriptions, had gradually migrated and settled in these highlands and were divided under about 83 so called "kings" who were in reality no more than belligerent Assyrian Chieftains, perhaps something like the great Highland Clans of Old Scotland, and who were not desirous of being under the subordination' of the central government. Aram is mentioned in the Bible (Gen., 10:22), as the brother of Assur, sons of Shem, but in Gen., 10:6,8, Chus, son of Ham begot Nemrod, who many have claimed to be Ninus, building of Nineveh, according to written history, but the Bible story says the beginning of Nemrod's kingdom was Babylon. This makes Nimrod a Hemite, yet history says• he was a Semite, and Assur came out of Babylon and built Nineveh. There is a discrepancy here; Assur, Ninus and Nimrod must be the same person. Aram is also recorded in Mat., 1:3, this Aram, if the same, is centuries after the first one. This Aram came from the line of Abraham. No exploits of Aram are noted anywhere, but yet, the Aramaean or Syrian kings are having battle with the Kings of Israel. These kings are the Assyrian tribal chiefs mentioned above. Aram, the brother of Assur, never propagated any ethnic group or nationality; he was just the brother of Assur and an Assyrian himself. The Aramaeans have left no history nor any inscriptions to prove their existence as an entity or a nationality. The founding of a language or more correctly of an alphabet, attributed to them is a misnomer. Yes, it may have been founded in the higher lands, but these higher lands were nationality, Assyrian. One historian says that a great number of the population of Assyria were Aramaeans and their language was spoken by all the inhabitants. This is true, because these people so called "highlanders" were Assyrians and so lived in their country, having migrated' more to the South where there was more opportunities and also brought there from the hilly country as a punitive action and to attain homogeneity of the population, today called integration. Thus we conclude that "Aramaean" and "Aramaic" are loose appellations and should be called Assyrian or Assyrian-Aramaean, or Assyrian Highlanders.
Now, let us consider the name "Syrian." This name came into existence in the fourth century B.C., when Alexander took over what was once the Assyrian Empire and divided the land into two parts, calling one part, west of the Euphrates, Suros, from the word "Sur" in Assyrian for Tyre the port city. Later "Suros" was Latinized or Hellenized into "Syria." the other part was called Mesopotamia, the land called Beth Naharaim in Assyrian, the land or home of the rivers, Euphrates Tigris rivers. After his death, the two territories, because that is all they were with their Assyrian inhabitants, a mixture of erroneously called Babylonians, Aramaeans, Chaldeans, and of course, Assyrians and Assyrized Hebrews and yes, a few Hellenics, were taken over by the Seleucid, then by the Arsacide of Parthia, then by the Romans, etc. Now what is the ethnic name or nationality of this people? If in the territory called Syria, if these inhabitants were "Syrians," what was the national name of the people that were in the Mesopotamian territory? There is no such thing as a Mesopotamian nationality, so why should there be a "SYRIAN" nationality? Even today, the people under the national government of Syria, an entity by itself, are not called Syrians. The Moslem calls himself an Arab, the Assyrian, Suryene and the others give their ethnic names. Before the establishment. of the present country of Syria, with its own government, there was no such person or thing as a, Syrian. Yes, there was an inhabitant of Syria, but he or, she was not of the Syrian nationality. The Syrian Christians or the Syrian Church of Antioch are misnomers. The correct appellation would be the Assyrian Christians or the Christians inhabiting Syria, for there were Greeks, Hebrews, Arabs, etc., who were also Christians in Syria. The Church is not the Syrian Church, it is the Church of Antioch, Syria and if a Church of a people is under that See of Antioch, as the Assyrian, then the name of that Church with its Patriarch should be the "ASSYRIAN CHURCH OF ANTIOCH, SYRIA."
The members of the Church of Rome are not Romans, so why should the members of the Church of Antioch be Syrians. The Encyclopedia Britannica notes that those people that use the "Syriac" language in their liturgy are called "Syrian Christians," and the Syrian Church. Now that we have concluded that Aramic or Syriac is the ASSYRIAN, why should not they be called the ASSYRIAN CHRISTIANS, AND THE ASSYRIAN CHURCH.
Now, to those who use or sanction the use of these loose appellations and misnomers, I say, cease and desist from their use or if you must, then affix the national designation ASSYRIAN.