Oriental Orthodoxy is the fourth largest communion of Christian churches, with about 76 million members worldwide. As one of the oldest religious institutions in the world, it has played a prominent role in the history and culture of Armenia, Eritrea, Ethiopia and parts of the Middle East and India. An Eastern Christian communion of autocephalous churches, its bishops are equal by virtue of episcopal ordination, its doctrines can be summarised in that the communion recognizes the validity of only the first three ecumenical councils; the Oriental Orthodox communion is composed of six autocephalous churches: the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. Collectively, they consider themselves to be the One, Holy and Apostolic church founded by Jesus Christ in his Great Commission, that its bishops are the successors of Christ's apostles.
Most member churches are part of the World Council of Churches. All member churches share a identical theology, with the distinguishing feature being Miaphysitism. Three different rites are practiced in the communion: the western-influenced Armenian Rite, the West Syrian Rite of the two Syriac churches, the Alexandrian Rite of the Copts and Eritreans. At the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD, the Oriental Orthodox churches separated from the Imperial Roman Church over differences in Christology. Oriental Orthodoxy developed distinctively under the Patriarchate of Alexandria in Egypt part of the Pentarchy, the only episcopal see besides the Holy See to maintain the title "Pope"; the majority of Oriental Orthodox Christians live in Egypt, Ethiopia and Armenia, with smaller Syriac communities living in the Middle East–decreasing due to persecution–and India. There are many in other parts of the world, formed through diaspora and missionary activity; the Oriental Orthodox churches are distinguished by their recognition of only the first three ecumenical councils during the period of the State church of the Roman Empire –the First Council of Nicaea in 325, the First Council of Constantinople in 381 and the Council of Ephesus in 431.
Oriental Orthodoxy shares much theology and many ecclesiastical traditions with the Eastern Orthodox Church. The primary theological difference between the two communions is the differing Christology. Oriental Orthodoxy rejects the Chalcedonian Definition, instead adopts the Miaphysite formula, believing that the human and divine natures of Christ are united; the early prelates of the Oriental Orthodox churches thought that the Chalcedonian Definition implied a possible repudiation of the Trinity or a concession to Nestorianism. Other differences include minor deviations in social teaching and different views on ecumenism. Oriental Orthodox churches are considered to be more conservative with regard to social issues as well more enthusiastic about ecumenical relations with non-Orthodox churches; the break in communion between the Imperial Roman and Oriental Orthodox churches did not occur but rather over 2-3 centuries following the Council of Chalcedon. The two communions developed separate institutions, the Oriental Orthodox did not participate in any of the ecumenical councils.
The Oriental Orthodox churches maintain their own ancient apostolic succession. The various churches are governed by holy synods, with a primus inter pares bishop serving as primate; the primates hold titles like patriarch and pope. Among these patriarchs, the Pope of Alexandria takes precedence, is sometimes considered the "face" of Oriental Orthodoxy; the Alexandrian Patriarchate, along with Rome and Antioch, was one of the most prominent sees of the early Christian Church, contains a majority population of Coptic Christians, unlike Antioch is still a major population center. That said, the Pope of Alexandria has no governing powers with respect to the non-Coptic churches. Oriental Orthodoxy does not have a magisterial leader like the Roman Catholic Church, nor does the communion have a leader who can convene ecumenical synods like the Eastern Orthodox Church; the schism between Oriental Orthodoxy and the adherents of Chalcedonian Christianity was based on differences in Christology. The First Council of Nicaea, in 325, declared that Jesus Christ is God, to say, "consubstantial" with the Father.
The third ecumenical council, the Council of Ephesus, declared that Jesus Christ, though divine as well as human, is only one being, or person. Thus, the Council of Ephesus explicitly rejected Nestorianism, the Christological doctrine that Christ was two distinct beings, one divine and one human, who happened to inhabit the same body; the churches that became Oriental Orthodoxy were anti-Nestorian, therefore supported the decisions made at Ephesus. Twenty years after Ephesus, the Council of Chalcedon reaffirmed the view that Jesus Christ was a single person, but at the same time declared that this one person existed "in two complete natures", one human and one divine; those who opposed Chalcedon saw this as a concession to Nestorianism, or as a conspiracy to convert the Church to Nestorianism by stealth. As a result, over the following decades, they separated from communion with those who accepted the Council of Chalcedon, formed the body, today called Oriental Orthodoxy. At times, Chalcedonian Christians have referre
Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria
The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria is an Oriental Orthodox Christian church based in Egypt and the Middle East. The head of the Church and the See of Alexandria is the Patriarch of Alexandria on the Holy See of Saint Mark, who carries the title of Coptic Pope; the See of Alexandria is titular, today the Coptic Pope presides from Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in the Abbassia District in Cairo. The church follows the Alexandrian Rite for its liturgy and devotional patrimony. With 18–22 million members worldwide, whereof about 15 to 20 million are in Egypt, it is the country's largest Christian church. According to its tradition, the Coptic Church was established by Saint Mark, an apostle and evangelist, during the middle of the 1st century. Due to disputes concerning the nature of Christ, it split from the rest of the Christendom after the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451, resulting in a rivalry with the Byzantine Orthodox Church. In the 4–7th centuries the Coptic Church expanded due to the Christianization of the Aksumite empire and of two of the three Nubian kingdoms and Alodia, while the third Nubian kingdom, recognized the Coptic patriarch after being aligned to the Byzantine Orthodox Church.
After AD 639 Egypt was ruled by its Islamic conquerors from Arabia, the treatment of the Coptic Christians ranged from tolerance to open persecution. In the 12th century, the church relocated its seat from Alexandria to Cairo; the same century saw the Copts become a religious minority. During the 14th and 15th centuries, Nubian Christianity was supplanted by Islam. In 1959, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church was granted independence; this was extended to the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church in 1998 following the successful Eritrean War of Independence from Ethiopia. Since the Arab Spring in 2011, the Copts have been suffering increased religious discrimination and violence; the Egyptian Church is traditionally believed to be founded by St Mark at around AD 42, regards itself as the subject of many prophecies in the Old Testament. Isaiah the prophet, in Chapter 19, Verse 19 says "In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, a pillar to the LORD at its border".
The first Christians in Egypt were common people. There were Alexandrian Jewish people such as Theophilus, whom Saint Luke the Evangelist addresses in the introductory chapter of his gospel; when the church was founded by Saint Mark during the reign of the Roman emperor Nero, a great multitude of native Egyptians embraced the Christian faith. Christianity spread throughout Egypt within half a century of Saint Mark's arrival in Alexandria, as is clear from the New Testament writings found in Bahnasa, in Middle Egypt, which date around the year AD 200, a fragment of the Gospel of John, written in Coptic, found in Upper Egypt and can be dated to the first half of the 2nd century. In the 2nd century, Christianity began to spread to the rural areas, scriptures were translated into the local languages, namely Coptic; the Coptic language is a universal language used in Coptic churches in every country. It uses Greek letters. Many of the hymns in the liturgy have been passed down for several thousand years.
The language is used to preserve Egypt's original language, banned by the Arab invaders, who ordered Arabic to be used instead. Some examples of these hymns are Coptic: translit. Ep.ouro, lit.'The King',Coptic: Ⲉⲕⲥⲙⲁⲣⲱⲟⲩⲧ, translit. Ek.esmaro'oot, lit.' Blessed', Coptic: Ⲧⲁⲓϣⲟⲩⲣⲏ, translit. Tai.shouri, lit.'This Censer', many more. The Catechetical School of Alexandria is the oldest catechetical school in the world. St. Jerome records. Around AD 190, under the leadership of the scholar Pantanaeus, the school of Alexandria became an important institution of religious learning, where students were taught by scholars such as Athenagoras, Clement and the native Egyptian Origen, considered the father of theology and, active in the field of commentary and comparative Biblical studies. Many scholars such as Jerome visited the school of Alexandria to exchange ideas and to communicate directly with its scholars; the scope of this school was not limited to theological subjects. The question-and-answer method of commentary began there, 15 centuries before Braille, wood-carving techniques were in use there by blind scholars to read and write.
The Theological college of the catechetical school was re-established in 1893. The new school has campuses in Ireland, New Jersey, Los Angeles, where Coptic priests-to-be and other qualified men and women are taught among other subjects Christian theology, the Coptic language and art – including chanting, music and tapestry. Many Egyptian Christians went to the desert during the 3rd century, remained there to pray and work and dedicate their lives to seclusion and worship of God; this was the beginning of the monastic movement, organized by Anthony the Great, Saint Paul of Thebes, the world's first anchorite, Saint Macarius the Great and Saint Pachomius the Cenobite in the 4th century. Christian monasticism was born in Egypt and was instrumental in the formation of the Coptic Orthodox Church character of submission and humility, thanks to the teachings and writings of the Great Fathers of Egypt's Deserts. By the end of the 5th century, the
Tiridates III of Armenia
Tiridates III was the king of Arsacid Armenia, is known as Tiridates the Great Տրդատ Մեծ. In 301, Tiridates proclaimed Christianity as the state religion of Armenia, making the Armenian kingdom the first state to embrace Christianity officially. Tiridates III was the son of Khosrov II of Armenia by an unnamed mother, the latter being assassinated in 252 by a Parthian agent named Anak under orders from Ardashir I. Tiridates had one known sibling, a sister called Khosrovidukht and was the namesake of his paternal grandfather, Tiridates II of Armenia. Anak was captured and executed along with most of his family, while his son, Gregory the Illuminator, was sheltered in Caesaria, in Cappadocia. Being the only surviving heir to the throne, Tiridates was taken away to Rome soon after his father's assassination while still an infant, he was skilled in languages and military tactics. The Armenian historian Movses Khorenatsi described him as a brave and strong warrior who participated in the battles against enemies.
He led his army to victories in many battles. In 270 the Roman emperor Aurelian engaged the Sassanids, who had now replaced the Parthians, on the eastern front and he was able to drive them back. Tiridates, as the true heir to the now Persian-occupied Armenian throne, came to Armenia and raised an army and drove the enemy out in 287; when Tiridates returned to Armenia, he made the city of Vagharshapat his capital, as it had been the capital of his late father. For a while, fortune appeared to favour Tiridates, he not only expelled his enemies. At the time the Persian Empire was in a distracted state; the throne was disputed by the ambition of two contending brothers and Narses. The civil war was, soon terminated and Narses was universally acknowledged as King of Persia. Narses directed his whole force against the foreign enemy; the contest became too unequal. Tiridates once more took refuge with the Romans; the Roman-Armenian alliance grew stronger while Diocletian ruled the empire. This can be attributed to the upbringing of Tiridates, the consistent Persian aggressions and the murder of his father by Anak.
With Diocletian's help, Tiridates pushed the Persians out of Armenia. In 299, Diocletian left the Armenian state in a quasi-independent and protectorate status to use it as a buffer in case of a Persian attack. Tiridates married an Alani Princess called Ashkhen in 297 by whom he had three children: a son called Khosrov III, a daughter called Salome and an unnamed daughter who married St. Husik I, one of the earlier Catholicoi of the Armenian Apostolic Church; the traditional story of the conversion of the king and the nation is based on the fifth-century work of Agathangelos titled "The History of the Armenians." It tells of Gregory the Illuminator, the son of Anak, brought up as a Christian and, feeling guilt for his own father's sin, joined the Armenian army and worked as a secretary to the king. Christianity in Armenia had a strong footing by the end of the 3rd century, but the nation by and large still followed pagan polytheism. Tiridates was no exception. During a pagan religious ceremony Tiridates ordered Gregory to place a flower wreath at the foot of the statue of the goddess Anahit in Eriza.
Gregory refused. This act infuriated the king, his fury was only exacerbated when several individuals declared that Gregory was in fact, the son of Anak, the traitor who had killed Tiridates's father. Gregory was tortured and thrown in Khor Virap, a deep underground dungeon. During the years of Gregory's imprisonment, a group of virgin nuns, led by Gayane, came to Armenia as they fled the Roman persecution of their Christian faith. Tiridates heard about the legendary beauty of one of its members, Rhipsime, he demanded to marry the beautiful virgin. The king killed. After this event, he fell ill and according to legend, adopted the behavior of a wild boar, aimlessly wandering around in the forest. Khosrovidukht had a dream wherein Gregory was still alive in the dungeon, he was the only one able to cure the king. At this point it had been 13 years since his imprisonment, the odds of him being alive were slim, they retrieved him, despite being malnourished, he was still alive. He was kept alive by a kind-hearted woman who threw a loaf of bread down in Khor Virap every day for him.
Tiridates was brought to Gregory and was miraculously cured of his illness in 301. Persuaded by the power of the cure, the king proclaimed Christianity the official state religion. Thus, Armenia became a nominally Christian kingdom and the first state to adopt Christianity. Tiridates appointed Gregory as Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church. While as a matter of fact the conversion to Christianity proved to be decisive and pivotal in Armenian history, it seems that the Christianisation of Armenia by the Arsacids of Armenia was in defiance of the Sassanids; the switch from the traditional pagan Armenian religion to Christianity was not an easy one. Tiridates used force to impose this new faith upon the people and many armed conflicts ensued, because polytheism was rooted in the Armenian people. An actual battle took place between the king's forces and the pagan camp, resulting in the weakening of polytheistic military strength. Tiridates thus spent the rest of
Mesrop Mashtots listen known as Mesrob the Vartabed, was an early medieval Armenian linguist, theologian and hymnologist. He is best known for inventing the Armenian alphabet c. 405 AD, a fundamental step in strengthening Armenian national identity. He was the creator of the Caucasian Albanian and Georgian alphabets, according to a number of scholars and contemporaneous Armenian sources. Mesrop Mashtots was born in a noble family in the settlement of Hatsekats in Taron, died in Vagharshapat, he was the son of a man named Vardan. Koryun, his pupil and biographer, tells us that Mashtots received a good education, was versed in the Greek and Persian languages. On account of his piety and learning Mesrop was appointed secretary to King Khosrov IV, his duty was to write in Persian characters the decrees and edicts of the sovereign. Leaving the court for the service of God, he took holy orders, withdrew to a monastery with a few chosen companions. There, says Koryun, he practiced great austerities, enduring hunger and thirst and poverty.
He lived on vegetables, wore a hair shirt, slept upon the ground, spent whole nights in prayer and the study of the Holy Scriptures. This life he continued for a few years. Armenia, so long the battle-ground of Romans and Persians, lost its independence in 387, was divided between the Byzantine Empire and Persia, about four-fifths being given to the latter. Western Armenia was governed by Byzantine generals, while an Armenian king ruled, but only as feudatory, over Persian Armenia; the Church was influenced by these violent political changes, although the loss of civil independence and the partition of the land could not destroy its organization or subdue its spirit. Persecution only quickened it into greater activity, had the effect of bringing the clergy, the nobles, the common people closer together; the principal events of this period are the invention of the Armenian alphabet, the revision of the liturgy, the creation of an ecclesiastical and national literature, the readjustment of hierarchical relations.
Three men are prominently associated with this work: Mesrop, Patriarch Isaac, King Vramshapuh, who succeeded his brother Khosrov IV in 389. In 394, with the help of blessing of Armenia's Catholicos, Sahak Partev, Mesrop set out on a mission of spreading the word of God to a pagan or semi-pagan people. Mesrop, as noted, had spent some time in a monastery preparing for a missionary life. With the support of Prince Shampith, he preached the Gospel in the district of Goghtn near the river Araxes, converting many heretics and pagans. However, he experienced great difficulty in instructing the people, for the Armenians had no alphabet of their own, instead using Greek and Syriac scripts, none of which were well suited for representing the many complex sounds of their native tongue. Again, the Holy Scriptures and the liturgy, being written in Syriac, were, to a large extent, unintelligible to the faithful. Hence the constant need of interpreters to explain the Word of God to the people. Mesrop, desirous to remedy this state of things, resolved to invent a national alphabet, in which undertaking Isaac and King Vramshapuh promised to assist him.
It is hard to determine what part Mesrop had in the fixing of the new alphabet. According to his Armenian biographers, he consulted Daniel, a bishop of Mesopotamia, Rufinus, a monk of Samosata, on the matter. With their help and that of Isaac and the king, he was able to give a definite form to the alphabet, which he adapted from the Greek. Others, like Lenormant, think it derived from the Avestan. Mesrop's alphabet consisted of thirty-six letters. Medieval Armenian sources claim that Mashtots invented the Georgian and Caucasian Albanian alphabets around the same time. However, most scholars link the creation of the Georgian script to the process of Christianization of Iberia, a core Georgian kingdom of Kartli; the alphabet was therefore most created between the conversion of Iberia under King Mirian III and the Bir el Qutt inscriptions of 430, contemporaneously with the Armenian alphabet. The first sentence in Armenian written down by St. Mesrop after he invented the letters is said to be the opening line of Solomon’s Book of Proverbs: The invention of the alphabet in 405 was the beginning of Armenian literature, proved a powerful factor in the upbuilding of the national spirit.
"The result of the work of Isaac and Mesrop", says St. Martin, "was to separate for the Armenians from the other peoples of the East, to make of them a distinct nation, to strengthen them in the Christian Faith by forbidding or rendering profane all the foreign alphabetic scripts which were employed for transcribing the books of the heathens and of the followers of Zoroaster. To Mesrop we owe the preservation of the language and literature of Armenia. Anxious that others should profit by his discovery, encouraged by the patriarch and the king, Mesrop founded numerous schools in different parts of the country, in which the youth were taught the new alphabet, it is proven, that Saint Mesrop himself taught in Amaras monastery of Artskah region of Armenia (located in contemporary Martuni region of unrecogn
Holy See of Cilicia
The Armenian Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia is a hierarchal see of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Since 1930, the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia has been headquartered in Antelias, Lebanon. Aram I is the Catholicos of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church since 1995. First Sis era, 267-301: According to the order of Catholicoi, *St. Gregory I the Enlightener was seated in Sis 267-301 before moving to Etchmiadzin in 301 where he continued in office until 325. In 485 AD, the Catholicosate was transferred to the new capital of Armenia Dvin. In the 10th century it moved from Dvin to Dzoravank and to Aghtamar, to Arghina and to Ani Sivas era, 1058–1062 Tavbloor era, 1062–1066 Dzamendav era, 1066–1116 Dzovk, era, 1116–1149 Hromgla era, 1149–1293 Second Sis era, 1293-1930 Antelias, Lebanon era, since 1930 - having transferred there from Sis in Cilicia in the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide; the origin of the Armenian Church dates back to the Apostolic age and according to the ancient tradition was established by St. Thaddeus and St. Bartholomew.
In 301 AD, Christianity was accepted by the Armenians as the state religion. St. Gregory the Illuminator, the patron Saint of the Armenian Apostolic Church, King Tiridates III of Armenia, the ruler of the time, played a pivotal role in the official Christianization of Armenia. St. Gregory the Illuminator became the organizer of the Armenian Church hierarchy. From that time, the heads of the Armenian Church have been called Catholicos and still hold the same title. St. Gregory chose as the site of the Catholicosate the capital city of Vagharshapat, in Armenia, he built the pontifical residence next to the church called "Holy Mother of God". In 485 AD, the Catholicosate was transferred to the new capital Dvin. In the 10th century it moved from Dvin to Dzoravank and to Aghtamar, to Arghina and to Ani. After the fall of Ani and the Armenian Kingdom of Bagradits in 1045, masses of Armenians migrated to Cilicia; the Catholicosate, together with the people, settled there. The seat of the church was first established in Sivas moving to Tavbloor to Dzamendav, Hromgla, in Sis, the capital of the Cilician Kingdom.
After the fall of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, in 1375, the Church assumed the role of national leadership, the Catholicos was recognized as Ethnarch. This national responsibility broadened the scope of the Church's mission. In 1441, a new Catholicos of All Armenians was elected in Holy Etchmiadzin in the person of Kirakos I Virapetsi of Armenia. At the same time the retiring Catholicos in Sis Gregory IX Mousabegian remained as the Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia. Therefore, since 1441, there have been two Catholicosates in the Armenian Apostolic Church with the primacy of the Catholicosate of All Armenians in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin recognized by the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia; the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians resides in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. The city of Sis was the center of the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia for more than six centuries, starting in 1293 when the Catholicosate moved from Hromgla to Sis.
The monastery of St. Sophia of Sis, home of the Catholicosate, dominates the town in early 20th-century photographs. During the Armenian Genocide, in 1915, the Armenian population in Cilicia was destroyed; the last Catholicos to reside in Sis was Sahak II. In 1921, after renewed massacres of Armenians in Cilicia by Kemalist Turkey, Sahak II, with the surviving Armenian population, fled to find refuge in Syria. Sahak II after leaving the premises of the Catholicosate in Sis stayed at various locations in Northern Syria and in Lebanon, running the affairs of the Catholicosate. In 1922 the American Committee for Relief in the Near East established an orphanage in Antilias for survivors of the genocide, it continued operating until 1928. After the foundation's Executive Committee was petitioned in 1929 by Sahak II, in 1930 the now-vacant buildings of the orphanage were leased to the Cilicia Catholicosate for a period of five years to be used as a seat for the Catholicosate and a seminary for training priests and teachers.
The foundation agreed to contribute $6000-$7000 yearly towards running costs. The first mass in the Catholicosate's seminary at Antelias took place on Sunday, October 12, 1930. Using donations from Simon and Mathilde Kayekjian, the Catholicosate purchased the property and land that housed the Catholicosate in Antelias. Ailing Catholicos Sahak II, who died in 1939, was aided in his years by Papken I, who served as Catholicos Coadjutor from 1931 until his death in 1936; the St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral was built through the donation of a benefactor whose name, Sarkis Kenadjian, was only revealed after his death, according to his wish. A chapel in memory of the one and a half million Armenian martyrs was built, followed by a residence for the Catholicos, called Veharan, a new Seminary building; the chapel was built after the donation of Armenian-Cypriot benefactor and art collector Vahram Utidjian, son of Apisoghom Utidjian, official translator for the British government in Cyprus. However, the "Cilicia"
Armenian Apostolic Church
The Armenian Apostolic Church is the national church of the Armenian people. Part of Oriental Orthodoxy, it is one of the most ancient Christian communities; the Kingdom of Armenia was the first state to adopt Christianity as its official religion under the rule of King Tiridates in the early 4th century. The church originated in the missions of Apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus in the 1st century, according to tradition, it is sometimes referred to as the Armenian Orthodox Gregorian Church. The latter is not preferred by the church itself, as it views the Apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus as its founders, St. Gregory the Illuminator as the first official governor of the church, it is simply known as the Armenian Church. The Armenian Church believes in apostolic succession through the apostles Thaddeus. According to legend, the latter of the two apostles is said to have cured Abgar V of Edessa of leprosy with the Image of Edessa, leading to his conversion in 30 AD. Thaddaeus was commissioned by Abgar to proselytize throughout Armenia, where he converted the king Sanatruk's daughter, martyred alongside Thaddeus when Sanatruk fell into apostasy.
After this, Bartholomew came to Armenia, bringing a portrait of the Virgin Mary, which he placed in a nunnery he founded over a former temple of Anahit. Bartholomew converted the sister of Sanatruk, who once again martyred a female relative and the apostle who converted her. Both apostles ordained native bishops before their execution, some other Armenians had been ordained outside of Armenia by James the Just. Scholars including Bart Ehrman, Han Drijvers, W. Bauer dismiss the conversion of Abgar V as fiction. According to Eusebius and Tertullian, Armenian Christians were persecuted by kings Axidares, Khosrov I, Tiridates III, the last of whom was converted to Christianity by Gregory the Illuminator. Ancient Armenia's adoption of Christianity as a state religion has been referred to by Nina Garsoïan as "probably the most crucial step in its history." This conversion distinguished it from its Iranian and Mazdean roots and protected it from further Parthian influence. According to Mary Boyce, the acceptance of Christianity by the Arsacid-Armenian rulers was in defiance of the Sassanids.
When King Tiridates III made Christianity the state religion of Armenia between 301 and 314, it was not an new religion there. It had penetrated the country from at least the third century, may have been present earlier. Tiridates declared Gregory to be the first Catholicos of the Armenian Church and sent him to Caesarea to be consecrated. Upon his return, Gregory tore down shrines to idols, built churches and monasteries, ordained many priests and bishops. While meditating in the old capital city of Vagharshapat, Gregory had a vision of Christ descending to the earth and striking it with a hammer. From that spot arose a great Christian temple with a huge cross, he was convinced. With the king's help he did so in accordance with his vision, renaming the city Etchmiadzin, which means "the place of the descent of the Only-Begotten"; the Armenian Church participated in the larger Christian world and its Catholicos was represented at the First Council of Nicea. In 353, King Papas appointed Catholicos Husik without first sending him to Caesarea for commissioning before Rome had any plans for a universal Roman church.
Its Catholicos was still represented at the First Council of Constantinople. Christianity was strengthened in Armenia in the 5th century by the translation of the Bible into the Armenian language by the native theologian and scholar, Saint Mesrop Mashtots. Before the 5th century, Armenians had a spoken language. Thus, the Bible and Liturgy were written in Syriac rather than Armenian; the Catholicos Sahak commissioned Mesrop to create the Armenian alphabet, which he completed in 406. Subsequently, the Bible and Liturgy were written in the new script; the translation of the Bible, along with works of history and philosophy, caused a flowering of Armenian literature and a broader cultural renaissance. Although unable to attend the Council of Ephesus, Catholicos Isaac Parthiev sent a message agreeing with its decisions. However, non doctrinal elements in the Council of Chalcedon caused certain problems to arise. At the First Council of Dvin in 506 the synod of the Armenian and Caucasian Albanian bishops were assembled during the reign of Catholicos Babken I.
The participation of the Catholicoi of Georgia and Albania were set to make clear the position of the churches concerning the Council of Chalcedon. The "Book of Epistles" mentions that 20 bishops, 14 laymen, many nakharars participated in the council; the involvement in the council discussion of different level of lay persons seemed to be a general rule in Armenia. A century the 3rd Council of Dvin was convened during the reign of Catholicos Abraham I of Aghbatank and Prince Smbat Bagratuni, with clergymen and laymen participating; the Georgian Church disagreed with the Armenian Church, having approved the christology of Chalcedon. This council was convened to clarify the relationship between the Georgian churches. After the Council, Catholicos Abraham wrote an encyclical letter addressed to the people, blaming Kurion and his adherents for the schism; the Council never set up canons. Despite this, the Albanian Church remained under the jurisdiction of the Armenian Church while in co
Abgar V, called Ukamma, was the King of Osroene with his capital at Edessa. Abgar was described as "king of the Arabs" by a near-contemporary source. According to Movses Khorenatsi, Abgar was an Armenian, yet both Robert W. Thomson and Richard G. Hovannisian state Abgar's Armenian ethnicity was invented by Khorenatsi. Most modern academics present the Abgarid dynasty as an Arab dynasty. Lucas Van Rompay, Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, states that, "as far as the ethnic descent of the Abgarid kings is concerned, we cannot ascertain whether they were Arabs, Parthian, or Armenian". Abgar's nephew, King Sanatruk of Armenia, is chronicled extensively in Armenian writings. Abgar V came to power in 4 BC, he lost his throne in 7 AD and regained it five years later. Armenian historian Movses Khorenatsi, or Moses of Chorene, reported that the chief wife of King Abgar V was Queen Helena of Adiabene, the wife of King Monobaz I of Adiabene, thus the kingdoms of Edessa and Adiabene were linked in some manner.
Robert Eisenman suggests Queen Helena as one of the wives of King Abgar V, who allotted her the lands of Adiabene. Professor Eisenman derived this association from Movses Khorenatsi mentioning the same famine relief to Judaea as does Flavius Josephus: As to the first of Abgar’s wives, named Helena... She went away to Jerusalem during the famine which Agabus had predicted. Helena’s tomb, a remarkable one, is still to be seen before the gate of Jerusalem. Professor Eisenman goes on to equate King Abgarus V with the Agabus in Acts of the Apostles, because Agabus was identified with the same famine relief as Queen Helena. By necessity Eisenman equates the biblical Antioch Orontes with Antioch Edessa, indicating that Paul the Apostle and Barnabas went to Edessa. On August 24, 2009, the board of the Central Bank of Armenia adopted a decision on introducing a new banknote with a nominal value of AMD 100,000; the new banknote depicts King Abgar V, described as King of Armenian Mesopotamia. The front of the banknote depicts Abgar pointing at the royal flag bearing an image of the Mandylion.
The reverse of the banknote depicts disciple Thaddeus of Edessa handing the canvas to King Abgar V and his consequent miraculous healing. Abgar V is claimed to be one of the first Christian kings in history, having been converted to the faith by Thaddeus of Edessa, one of the seventy disciples; the church historian Eusebius records that the Edessan archives contained a copy of a correspondence exchanged between Abgar of Edessa and Jesus. The correspondence consisted of the answer dictated by Jesus. On August 15, 944, the Church of St. Mary of Blachernae in Constantinople received the letter and the Mandylion. Both relics were moved to the Church of the Virgin of the Pharos; the account of this enjoyed great popularity in the East, in the West, during the Middle Ages: Jesus' letter was copied on parchment, inscribed in marble and metal, used as a talisman or an amulet. Of this correspondence, there survive not only a Syriac text, but an Armenian translation as well, two independent Greek versions, shorter than the Syriac, several inscriptions on stone.
A curious growth has arisen from this event, with scholars disputing whether Abgar suffered from gout or from leprosy, whether the correspondence was on parchment or papyrus, so forth. The text of the letter was: Abgar, ruler of Edessa, to Jesus the good physician who has appeared in the country of Jerusalem, greeting. I have of your cures as performed by you without medicines or herbs. For it is said that you make the blind to see and the lame to walk, that you cleanse lepers and cast out impure spirits and demons, that you heal those afflicted with lingering disease, raise the dead, and having heard all these things concerning you, I have concluded that one of two things must be true: either you are God, having come down from heaven you do these things, or else you, who does these things, are the son of God. I have therefore written to you to ask you if you would take the trouble to come to me and heal all the ill which I suffer. For I are plotting to injure you, but I have a small yet noble city, great enough for us both.
Jesus gave the messenger the reply to return to Abgar: Blessed are you who hast believed in me without having seen me. For it is written concerning me, that they who have seen me will not believe in me, that they who have not seen me will believe and be saved, but in regard to what you have written me, that I should come to you, it is necessary for me to fulfill all things here for which I have been sent, after I have fulfilled them thus to be taken up again to him that sent me. But after I have been taken up I will send to you one of my disciples, that he may heal your disease and give life to you and yours. Egeria wrote of the letter in her account of her pilgrimage in Edessa, she read the letter during her stay, remarked that the copy in Edessa was fuller than the copies in her home. In addition to the importance it attained in the apocryphal cycle, the correspondence of King Abgar gained a place in liturgy for some time; the Syriac liturgies commemorate the correspondence of Abgar during Lent.
The Celtic liturgy appears to have attached importance to it. It is possible t