Thomas of Cana

Last updated

Thomas of Cana Thomas of Cana.jpg
Thomas of Cana

Thomas of Cana (Malayalam: Knāy Thoma, Syriac: Knā'nāya Thoma) is a figure in the history and traditions of the Saint Thomas Christian communities of Kerala, India. He is said to have led a migration of Syriac Christians from the Middle East to India sometime between the 4th and the 9th century. This may reflect a historical migration that strengthened the ties between the Indian church and the Church of the East. The Thomas of Cana story also factors into traditions of the divide of the community into Northist and Southist factions; the Southists or Knanaya claim descent from Thomas of Cana and his followers.

Malayalam language spoken in Kerala and Lakshadweep of India

Malayalam is a Dravidian language spoken in the Indian state of Kerala and the union territories of Lakshadweep and Puducherry (Mahé) by the Malayali people, and it is one of 22 scheduled languages of India. Malayalam has official language status in the state of Kerala and in the union territories of Lakshadweep and Puducherry (Mahé) and is spoken by 37 million people worldwide. Malayalam is also spoken by linguistic minorities in the neighbouring states; with significant number of speakers in the Nilgiris, Kanyakumari, and Coimbatore districts of Tamil Nadu, and Kodagu and Dakshina Kannada districts of Karnataka. Due to Malayali expatriates in the Persian Gulf, the language is also widely spoken in Gulf countries.

Syriac language dialect of Middle Aramaic

Syriac, also known as Syrian/Syriac Aramaic, Syro-Aramaic or Classical Syriac, is a dialect of Middle Aramaic of the Northwest Semitic languages of the Afroasiatic family that is written in the Syriac alphabet, a derivation of the Aramaic alphabet. Having first appeared in the early first century CE in Edessa, classical Syriac became a major literary language throughout the Middle East from the 4th to the 8th centuries, preserved in a large body of Syriac literature. Indeed, Syriac literature comprises roughly 90% of the extant Aramaic literature. Syriac was once spoken across much of the Near East as well as Anatolia and Eastern Arabia. Syriac originated in Mesopotamia and eventually spread west of Iraq in which it became the lingua franca of the region during the Mesopotamian Neo-Assyrian period.

Kerala State in southern India

Kerala is a state on the southwestern Malabar Coast of India. It was formed on 1 November 1956, following passage of the States Reorganisation Act, by combining Malayalam-speaking regions. Spread over 38,863 km2 (15,005 sq mi), Kerala is the twenty-third largest Indian state by area. It is bordered by Karnataka to the north and northeast, Tamil Nadu to the east and south, and the Lakshadweep Sea to the west. With 33,387,677 inhabitants as per the 2011 Census, Kerala is the thirteenth-largest Indian state by population. It is divided into 14 districts with the capital being Thiruvananthapuram. Malayalam is the most widely spoken language and is also the official language of the state.

Contents

History

Written accounts of Thomas of Cana date to the India's Portuguese period. [1] Different versions give different dates for the events; some place them in 345; others as late as the 9th century. [1] [2] The meaning of the Cana epithet is unclear; it may refer to the town of Cana or the land of Canaan in the Bible, [3] or it may be a corruption of a Syriac term for merchant (Knāyil in Malayam). [4] However, scholar Richard M. Swiderski states that none of these etymologies are entirely sound. [3]

Portuguese India former colony of Portugal

The State of India, also referred as the Portuguese State of India or simply Portuguese India, was a state of the Portuguese Empire, founded six years after the discovery of a sea route between Portugal and the Indian Subcontinent to serve as the governing body of a string of Portuguese fortresses and colonies overseas.

Cana historical place in Galilee

The Gospel of John refers a number of times to a town called Cana of Galilee. The name possibly derives from the Hebrew or Aramaic word for reeds.

Canaan A Semitic-speaking region in the Ancient Near East

Canaan was a Semitic-speaking region and civilization in the Ancient Near East during the late 2nd millennium BC. The name Canaan appears throughout the Bible, where it corresponds to the Levant, in particular to the areas of the Southern Levant that provide the main setting of the narrative of the Bible: Phoenicia, Philistia, Israel, and other nations.

Knanaya priest and scholar Jacob Kollaparambil argues that the "Cana" form is a corruption introduced by European scholars in the 18th century based on the Malayalam form Knāy and its variants (Kynāi, Kināyi, Kinān) found in the folk tradition of the Knanaya and the common parlance and literature of the people of Malabar. [5] This may be a reference to the Christian community of Kynai, in Bét Aramayé in Persia. [6]

In most accounts, Thomas is said to have been a Syrian merchant, distinct from Thomas the Apostle, who preceded him in evangelizing in India. According to the traditions, Thomas of Cana led a group of 72 families, as well as clergymen, to the Malabar coast. There they met and supplemented the Saint Thomas Christians, who had been evangelized by Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century. Copper plates referring to this story exist, but are of a substantially later date. [4]

Thomas the Apostle Early Christian, one of the twelve apostles and a saint

Thomas the Apostle, also called Didymus ("twin"), was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus according to the New Testament.Thomas is commonly known as "Doubting Thomas" because he doubted Jesus' resurrection when first told of it ; later, he confessed his faith, "My Lord and my God," on seeing Jesus' crucifixion wounds.

Though some scholars doubt the veracity of the Thomas of Cana tradition, others suggest it may reflect a historical migration of East Syriac Christians to India. This may have been the era in which the region's relationship with the Church of the East developed. Stephen Neill suggests that East Syriac Christians may have come to India specifically because there was already an established Christian community, to whom they imparted East Syriac traditions. [7]

East Syriac Rite

The East Syriac Rite or East Syrian Rite, also called Assyrian Rite, Persian Rite, Chaldean Rite, or Syro-Oriental Rite, is an Eastern Christian liturgical rite that uses the East Syriac dialect as its liturgical language. It is one of two main liturgical rites of Syriac Christianity.

Church of the East an Eastern Christian Church that in 410 organised itself within the Sasanid Empire and in 424 declared its leader independent of other Christian leaders; from the Persian Empire it spread to other parts of Asia in late antiquity and the Middle Ages

The Church of the East, also called the Persian Church or Nestorian Church, was a Christian church of the East Syriac rite established c. 410. It was one of three major branches of Eastern Christianity that arose from the Christological controversies of the 5th and 6th centuries, alongside the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches. Since the Schism of 1552, there have been several different churches claiming the heritage of the Church of the East.

Northists and Southists

Knaithoma bhavan Knaithoma bhavan.jpg
Knaithoma bhavan

The arrival of Thomas of Cana figures into traditions concerning the division of the Saint Thomas Christians into "Northist" and "Southist" factions. In these versions, the Southists or Knanaya are the direct descendants of Thomas of Cana and his followers, while the Northists descend from the pre-existing local Christian body converted by Thomas the Apostle. [8] In some versions, Thomas of Cana had two wives or partners, one the ancestor to the endogamous Southists, and the other (generally described as a Kerala native) the ancestor to the Northists. [8] All these stories are apocryphal, though both Southist and Northist groups use variants to claim superiority for their faction. [1]

Knanaya

The Knanaya, also known as the Southists or Tekkumbhagar, are an endogamous group in the Saint Thomas Christian community of Kerala, India. They are differentiated from another part of the community, known in this context as the Northists. Today there are about 300,000 Knanaya in India and elsewhere.

Notes

  1. 1 2 3 Baum & Winkler, p. 53.
  2. Vadakkekara, p. 239.
  3. 1 2 Swiderski 1988b, pp. 55–56.
  4. 1 2 Neill, p. 42.
  5. Kollaparambil 1992, pp. 1-20.
  6. Kollaparambil 1992, pp. 1.
  7. Neill, pp. 42–43.
  8. 1 2 Swiderski 1988a, pp. 76–80.

Related Research Articles

Saint Thomas Christians Indian ethnoreligious group

The Saint Thomas Christians, also called Syrian Christians of India, Nasrani or Malankara Nasrani or Nasrani Mappila, are an ethnoreligious community of Indian (Malayali) Syriac Christians from Kerala, India, who trace their origins to the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century. The terms Syrian or Syriac relate not to their ethnicity but to their historical, religious, and liturgical connection to Syriac Christianity. The term Nasrani was derived from Semitic languages and refers to Christians in general.

Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Eastern Catholic Major Archiepiscopal Church

The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church or Church of Malabar Syrian Catholics is an Eastern Catholic Major Archiepiscopal Church based in Kerala, India. It is an autonomous particular church in full communion with the Pope and the worldwide Catholic Church, with self-governance under the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. The Church is headed by the Metropolitan and Gate of all India Major Archbishop Cardinal Maran Mar George Alencherry. The name Syro-Malabar is a prefix coined from the words Syriac as the church employs the East Syriac Rite liturgy, and Malabar which is the historical name for modern Kerala. The name has been in usage in official Vatican documents since the nineteenth century.

Syriac Christianity

Syriac Christianity is the form of Eastern Christianity whose formative theological writings and traditional liturgy are expressed in the Syriac language. Syriac Christianity consists of two liturgical rites, the East Syriac Rite and the West Syriac Rite. The main Anaphora of the East Syriac tradition is the Holy Qurbana of Saints Addai and Mari, while that of the West Syriac tradition is the Divine Liturgy of Saint James. Along with Latin and Greek, Syriac became one of "the three most important Christian languages in the early centuries" of the Common Era.

Coonan Cross Oath

The Coonan Cross Oath, taken on 3 January 1653, was a public avowal by members of the Saint Thomas Christians community of modern-day Kerala, India that they would not submit to Latin Catholic Portuguese Padroado dominance in ecclesiastical and secular life.

Chaldean Syrian Church

The Chaldean Syrian Church of India is an Eastern Christian Church based in Thrissur, India. It is an archbishopric of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East and is in full communion with Catholicos-Patriarch Mar Gewargis III.

Margamkali

Margamkali is an ancient Indian round dance of the St. Thomas Christians community based in Kerala state, mainly practiced by the endogamous sub-sect known as the Knanaya or Southist Christians. The dance retells the life and missionary work of St. Thomas the Apostle, based on the third century apocryphal Acts of Thomas.

Malabar Independent Syrian Church independent Church in India

The Malabar Independent Syrian Church, also known as the Thozhiyur Church, is a Christian church centred in Kerala, India. It is one of the churches of the Saint Thomas Christian community, which traces its origins to the evangelical activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century.

Syro-Malabar Catholic Archeparchy of Kottayam archeparchy

The Syro-Malabar Catholic Archeparchy of Kottayam is an eparchy of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in India for Knanaya Catholics. The Knanaya are descendants of Syrian Christians of Jewish origin who reportedly migrated to the Malabar coast during the fourth century under the leadership of Nestorian Thomas of Cana. During the 17th century, they split into Catholic and Malankara Church factions.

Thoma I 17th-century bishop of the Malankara Church

Mar Thoma I, also known as "Valiya Mar Thoma", is the first native democratically elected/selected Metropolitan bishop of the St Thomas Christians or Malankara Church. He was the last Archdeacon of the undivided St.Thomas Christians of Malabar. After the death of Archdeacon George of the Cross(കുരിശിങ്ങൽ ജോർജ്)( Kurisingal being his house name), on 25 July 1640, Parambil Thoma kathanar was elected and enthroned as new Archdeacon, when he was less than 30 years old. He led the Church to the Coonan Cross Oath on 3 January 1653 and to the subsequent schism in Saint Thomas Christians Church. After the Coonen Cross Oath, he was elected as a Bishop by Malankara (Yogam) Association and consecrated as a Bishop at St. Mary's Church Alangad, by laying hands of 12 priests on 22 May 1653. Only two Southist churches of Kaduthuruthy and Udayamperoor and a very few people elsewhere refused to recognise him as Bishop. Any how, the archdeacon began to exercise powers of episcopal order, though he openly tried to regularize his episcopal consecration as a Bishop from the Church of Antioch. His episcopal consecration as a Bishop was regularized in the year 1665 by Mar Gregorios Abdal Jaleel the Patriarchal delegate of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch.(The exact date and place of this event is anonymous).

Mar Dionysius I, also known as Mar Thoma VI, was the Metropolitan of the Malankara Church from 1765 until his death. A member of the Pakalomattom family, he was a shrewd administrator who appealed to outside authorities to assert his position as the sole leader of the Malankara Church and to attempt to reunite all the Saint Thomas Christians.

Jacobite Syrian Christian Church Oriental Orthodox Church based in Kerala

The Jacobite Syrian Christian Church also known as the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Christian Church, the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church, or the Syriac Orthodox Church of India, is an autonomous Oriental Orthodox Church based in the Indian state of Kerala, and is an integral branch of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch. It recognizes the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Of Antioch and all the East, Ignatius Aphrem II seated in the Cathedral of Saint George, Bab Tuma, Damascus, Syria, as its Supreme Head. It functions as a largely autonomous unit within the church, under the authority of the Catholicos of India, Baselios Thomas I. Currently, this is the only church in Malankara which has a direct relationship with the Syriac Christians of Antioch, which has continued from after the schism and they continue to use the West Syriac Rite Liturgy of Saint James.

Malankara Church church

The Malankara Church was an Oriental Orthodox church of the Saint Thomas Christians of Kerala, India, with particular emphasis on the part of the community that joined Archdeacon Mar Thoma I in swearing to resist the authority of the Latin Catholic Portuguese Padroado in 1653. This faction soon entered into a relationship with the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch.

David of Basra, sometimes rendered Dudi of Basra or David of Charax, was a 3rd- and 4th-century CE Christian Metropolitan bishop who undertook missionary work in India around the year 300. He is among the earliest documented Christian missionaries in India, perhaps later only than the apostle Thomas, who may have visited India in the 1st century, though sources for the period are fragmentary and sometimes confused.

Malankara Rite

The Malankara Rite is the form of the West Syriac liturgical rite practiced by several churches of the Saint Thomas Christian community in Kerala, India. West Syriac liturgy was brought to India by the Syriac Orthodox Bishop of Jerusalem, Gregorios Abdal Jaleel, in 1665; in the following decades the Malankara Rite emerged as the liturgy of the Malankara Church, one of the two churches that evolved from the split in the Saint Thomas Christian community in the 17th century. Today it is practiced by the various churches that descend from the Malankara Church, namely the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church, the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, the Malabar Independent Syrian Church, and the Mar Thoma Syrian Church.

Saint Thomas Christian denominations

The Saint Thomas Christian denominations are traditional Christian denominations from Kerala, India, who trace their origins to the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century. They are also known as "Nasranis" as well. The Syriac term "Nasrani" is still used by St. Thomas Christians in Kerala.

Yaqob of India

Mar Yaqob of India, also known as Mar Jacob, was a metropolitan bishop of the St Thomas Christians of Malabar. The history and legends of the East Syriac prelates in India prior to the arrival of European explorers are shrouded in mystery because of the unavailability of surviving documents. The Vatican Syrian codex 22, the oldest surviving Syrian manuscript written in Malabar, specifically mentions an East Syriac bishop who was residing in Malabar at that time. According to this ancient document,, which was written by a Deacon named Zachariah bar Joseph addresss Mar Jacob as Metropolitan and director of the holy see of the Apostle St Thomas, the great captain and the director of the entire holy church of India.

Saint Thomas Christian music

Saint Thomas Christian music refers to the musical traditions of the Saint Thomas Christian community of Kerala, India. It is chiefly liturgical and is derived from ancient Syriac Christian music from the Middle East, with remarkably little influence from local Indian styles. Of particular significance is the prevalence of the organum singing style. As a result of the community's isolation and conservatism, these traditions may retain elements of the earliest forms of Early Christian music.

Kaduthuruthy Valiya Palli Church

Kaduthuruthy Valiapally - Ave Maria of Knanaya Community is a historic church, originally established in AD 400. Located in Kaduthuruthy, the present Kaduthuruthy St. Mary’s Valiapally is a third building serving the congregation, and is linked to the history of the Knanaya community known as Southists (തെക്കു൦ഭാഗർ), who migrated to Kerala under the leadership of Kanai Thommen in AD 345 from East Syria to escape from the severe persecution of Persian emperor Shapor-II.

Malankara–Persia relations

Several historical evidences shed light on a significant Malankara–Persia relationship that spanned centuries. While a fraternal relationship existed between Malankara and Persia in the earlier centuries, closer ecclesiastical ties developed as early as 15th century and endured until the Portuguese colonial invasion of Malabar in 16th century. The Christians who came under the two ancient yet distinct lineages of Malankara (India) and Persia had one factor in common: their Saint Thomas heritage. The Church of the East shared communion with the Great Church until the Council of Ephesus in the 5th century, separating primarily over differences in Christology.

References

Commons-logo.svg Media related to Knai Thomman at Wikimedia Commons