Mar Yaqob of India(1301)

Mar Jacob(Mar Yaqob of India) was one of the legendary metropolitan of the Church of Malabar of St Thomas Christians.

So strong did the Christians of St Thomas become that, at a given moment, they aspired to independence and set up a line of Christian rulers of their own(villarvattom) which the rajahs of Cochin eventually absorbed shortly before the advent of the Portuguese[3][4]. Their metropolitan resided at Angamali near Cranganore and was assisted in the discharge of his office by an archdeaoon named by the Catholicos from the influential Pakalomattam family. Upon the metropolitan decease, the archdeacon assumed all his responsibilities and petitioned the said patriarch for a new substitute. It is not possible to paint a comprehensive picture of this fascinating and largely unknown chapter in the story of ancient Indian Christianity during the Middle Ages. The source material for this dark period which existed in the East Syrian repositories of Mesopotamia and in the old records of the Indian churches was destroyed by the Mongol hordes on the one side and by the Portuguese on the other. In fact the vandalism of the Mongol invasions of the Middle East was only surpassed in this sphere by the re-percussions of the Synod of Diamper in 1599. That act of faith simply led to the obliteration of all Indian records, since it was decided to burn all religious manuscripts tainted with the heresy of Nestorius.[2] Thus the historic records of Malabar church history passed out of existence. Cardinal Tisserant,however, registers a couple of minor but interesting references bearing upon the later mediaeval history of that church. The first dates from the fourteenth century, when a copyist named Zaccharias bar joseph bar Zaccharias made an allusion to the Catholicos Yahballaha III (1245–1317) and to Mar Jacob, bishop of India, in 1301.[1][5]

The dating formula in the colophon to a manuscript copied in June 1301 in the church of Mar Quriaqos in Shingly mentions the patriarch Yahballaha III (whom it curiously describes as Yahballaha V), and the metropolitan Yaʿqob of India(described as ‘vicar and governor of the seat of the apostle Thomas’, and probably the bishop Yacqob mentioned as the scribe’s tutor).. Chingly , described in this manuscript as 'the royal city', was doubtless the metropolitan seat for India at this time. The scribe was the fourteen-year-old deacon Zakarya, son of Joseph, son of Zakarya, who is described as ‘the pupil of the bishop Yacqob’.[5][11]
The colophon of the manuscript suggests the on-going relationship between the churches of Seleucia-Ctesiphon and Malabar [6][7]& Also consciousness of St Thomas Christians about their apostolic origin (One important aspect of the identity of the St. Thomas Christians was and continues to be their consciousness of their apostolic origin).[8]

“This holy book was written in the royal, renowned and famous city of Chingala  in Malabar in the time of the great captain and director of the holy catholic church of the East.. our blessed and holy Father Mar Yahd Alaha V and in the time of bishop Mar Jacob, Metropolitan and director of the holy see of the Apostle Mar Thoma, that is to say, our great captain and the director of the entire holy church of Christian India”[5][9][7][10]

The language used by the scribe about the patriarch Yahballaha III, however, is intriguing. The dating formula reads as follows:
“when the great governor, the holder of the key of the Holy Apostolic Church of the East and the bright lamp illuminating its territories, the chief of the chief priests, the father of fathers, our blessed and holy father, was Mar Yahballaha the Fifth, the Turk, catholicos-patriarch of the East, the chief region of the world, which guides and illuminates the other regions; who stands above the Catholic Church like a lamp stand to give light to all its servants and to dispel its fears.”[5][7][9]

It is interesting to see the superiority of the East over the West upheld in this formula, as three years later, in 1304, Yahballaha acknowledged the primacy of the Roman Church.[12] Protestant and Catholic scholars have long disputed the significance of this acknowledgement. It made sense for Yahballaha to cultivate good relations with Rome, but the recognition by the Church of the East of the primacy of the See of Saint Peter did not, in the eyes of the East Syrians, give the Western church the right to dictate their beliefs. The colophon of MS Vat Syr 22 is an interesting indication of how the East Syrians really saw themselves at this period.
But there is one puzzling aspect of this colophon. It is not surprising to find the Ongut patriarch Yahballaha III referred to as a ‘Turk’. But it is surprising to find him referred to as ‘Yahballaha the Fifth’. The standard lists of the Easy Syrian patriarchs know only two earlier patriarchs named Yahballaha, viz. Yahballaha I (415–20) and Yahballaha II (1190–1222). None of the known anti-patriarchs was named Yahballaha.

About the same time unexpected circumstances provided for a while the Indian Church with western contacts.Two of those visitors stand out as particularly important from the View-point of inter-Christian relations. The first was the Dominican friar Jordan Catalanl of Sevcrar: [d.c. 1336), who after the first stay in India prompted Pope John XXII (1361-44] to establish at Quilon the first Latin-rite diocese in the sub-continent.[13] It was however a very short-lived attempt. The second was the Franciscan and papal envoy. John de Marignolli. who stayed in Quilon for sixteen months In 1348-49.[14]
Their reports as well as those of other such casual visitors help us somehow to get at a clearer picture of Eastern Christianity in India in these centuries. In the 1320s the anonymous biographer of the patriarch Yahballaha III and his friend Rabban Bar Sauma praised the achievement of the Church of the East in converting 'the Indians, Chinese and Turks'.[15] India was listed as one of the Church of the East's 'provinces of the exterior' by the historian ʿAmr in 1348.[11]


[1]A History of Eastern Christianity (Taylor & Francis)-Page365

[2]The history of Christianity in India: Volume 2 By James Hough

[3]Eighteen Centuries of the Orthodox Greek Church(The separatist churches of the east )-Page 253, Quoted By A. H. Hore.

[4]A handbook of Kerala, Volume 1 -Page 152 Quoted by T. Madhava Menon, International School of Dravidian Linguistics.

[5]MS Vat Syr 22; Wilmshurst, EOCE, 343 and 391.

[6]Christian inculturation in India by By Paul M. Collins page 142

[7]Origin of Christianity in India: a historiographical critique By Benedict Vadakkekara

[8]Mathias Mundadan C.M.I., Indian Christians Search for Identity and Struggles for Autonomy, Dharmaram Publications, Bangalore, 2003, p. 2.

[9] The Christians of St. Thomas in South India and their Syriac manuscripts by J. P. M. van der Ploeg –page 187.

[10] The rise and decline of the Indian Church of the Thomas Christians by Placid J. Podipara page 15

[11]The ecclesiastical organisation of the Church of the East, 1318-1913, Volume 582 By David Wilmshurst-Page 343
[12] Phillips, p. 123

[13] Primary sources Of Jordanus' Epistles there is only one MS., viz. Paris, National Library, 5006 Lat., fol. 182, r. and v.; of the Mirabilia also one MS. only, viz. London, British Museum, Additional MSS., 19,513, fols. 3, r.f 2 r.

[14] Fontes rerum bohemicarum, iii. 492-604 (1882).

[15]Wallis Budge, The Monks of Kublai Khan, 122–3.

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