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Frumentius the West Syrian Bishop Came to India?

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  • Fr. Prince Mannathoor
    Dear all, When studies are conducted on St.Thomas Christians, the historians make their conclusions according to their whims and fancies. They try to uphold
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 3, 2010
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      Dear all,

      When studies are conducted on St.Thomas Christians, the historians make their conclusions according to their whims and fancies. They try to uphold not only their own traditions In this short essay I wish to point out some realities of the ancient Indian Church history. Frumentius was the saint of Ethiopian Church. But all of the ancient historians mentioned he visited in India. So in this essay I wish to focus some realities.

      ................................................Frumentius the West
      Syrian Bishop came to India.................................

      Frumentius was a Syrian bishop, from Tyre (West Syrian City, now
      situated in Lebanon).( JOHN AIKIN, General Biography,Vol.4, London,
      1803.p.254). He was ordained by Athanasius Patriarch of Alexandria.
      (----STANLEY BURSTEIN, ` The Introduction of Christianity to
      Axum', Ancient African Civilizations, New Jersey 1997. p.96----, )
      He came to India (JOSIAH CONDER, The Modern Traveller: A Description,
      Geographical, Historical and Topographical of the various countries of
      the Globe, Vol.7, James Duncan, London, 1830. p. 143.)with one West
      Syrian Philosopher named as Meropius. Frumentius was the nephew of
      Meropius. He had done a lot of missionary works in Malabar including
      establishment several churches. ….(WALTER CHAPIN, The Missionary
      Gazetteer, Comprising a view of the Inhabitants and a Geographical
      description of the countries and places, where protestant Missionaries
      have laboured; Alphabetically arranged and so constructed as to give a
      particular and general History of Missions throughout the World with an Appendix containing an Alphabetical List of missionaries, their
      Stations, the Time of Entering Removal or decease, David
      Watson,Woodstock, 1895. p. 343-344.)

      .................................Let us see the historian's
      opinions:-.............................................................

      1…… "The Greek Manuscript says:- A philosopher of Tyre about
      this period, desiring to penetrate into the interior of India, set off
      for this purpose with his two nephews. …..…..His nephews were
      conducted to the king. The name of the one was Edesius, and of the other Frumentius." (EVAGRIUS & THEODORET, `The Conversion of the
      Indians', History of the Church from A. D. 322 to the Death of
      Thedore of Mopsuestia, A.D. 427, Translated from Greek. London 1854.
      p.60.)

      2. ……….. "Athanasius of Alexandria consecrated him and bade
      him return in the Grace of Goid whence he had come. And when he had
      arrived in India as a bishop,….". (STANLEY BURSTEIN, ` The
      Introduction of Christianity to Axum', Ancient African
      Civilizations, New Jersey 1997. p.96)

      3. …………… "The period was one of more mobility and
      geographical exploits than it is generally given credit for Meropius, a Christian of Tyre in Syria, went to India and took two young men along, Adesius and Frumentius…." ( BENGT SUNDKLER & CHRISTOPHER STEED, A history of the Church in Africa, Cambridge, 2000, p.35.)

      4…………… "Edesius and Frumentius, two youths of Tyre,
      accompanied Meropius the philosopher into India, where being taken by
      the natives, they were presented to the king of the country, who pleased with their persons and their parts, made one of them, his butler, the other (Frumentius) the keeper of his records, or as Sozomen will have it, his treasurer and major-domo, committing to his care the government of his house. For their great diligence and fidelity the king at his death gave them their liberty, who thereupon determined to return to their own country, but were prevailed with by the queen to stay, and superintend affairs during the minority of her son. Which they did, the main of the government being in the hands of Frumentius, who, assisted by some Christian merchants that trafficked there, built an oratory, where they assembled to worship God according to the rites of Christianity, and instructed several of the natives, who joined themselves to their assembly. The young king, now of age, Frumentius resigned his trust, and begged leave to return ; which being with some difficulty obtained, they presently departed, Edesius going for Tyre, while Frumentius went to Alexandria, where he gave Athanasius, then bishop of that place, an account of the whole affair, showing him what hopes there were that the Indians would come over to the faith of Christ, withal begging of him, to send a bishop and some clergymen among them, and not to neglect so fair an opportunity of advancing their salvation. Athanasius, having advised with his clergy, persuaded Frumentius to accept the office, assuring him he had none fitter for it than himself. Which was done accordingly, and Frumentius being made bishop, returned back into India, where he preached the Christian faith, erected many churches, and being assisted by the divine grace and favour, healed both the souls and bodies of many at the same time." ( WILLIAM CAVE, The History of the Lives, Acts, Death and Martyrdoms, Philadelphia, 1810. p.353.)

      5…………. "Early Indian Church historians opinion:- Frumentius,
      the Apostle of Abyssinia, who had resided a long time in India, and
      spoke the language remarkably well, preached the Gospel in the southern parts, where he had great influence, and was highly respected, having been for many years prime minister, of the Kings, during his minority.

      There he converted many Hindus, and built many churches, and then went
      to Abyssinia. He came to India with his brother Adesius, along with
      their paternal uncle, a native of Tyre, who was a Christian, and a very learned man. He travelled into the interior parts of India as a
      philosopher, and having satisfied his curiosity, he re-embarked on his
      way back with his two nephews; but, happening to put into a certain
      harbour, in order to get a supply of water, they were, at their landing, suddenly attacked by the natives. 'Many perished, and the rest were carried into captivity. Among the former was the uncle; but his two nephews were presented to the King, who took particular notice of them, and they were afterward raised by him to the first dignities of the state. They obtained leave to revisit their native country, when Frumentius was ordained a bishop, and in that character went back to India." (CAPTAIN F. WILFORD, Origin and Decline of the Christian Religion in India. Asiatic Researches , Vol. X, London, 1810. p. 69-70)

      6….. "Meropius, say they, a merchant of Tyre (West Syria),
      proceeding to India, …….; and dying there, left two youths, by name
      Frumentius and Edesius;………." (SAMUEL GOBAT, Journal of a Three
      years Residence in Abyssinia, London, 1834.p.3)

      7………. "FRUMENTIUS, a saint in the Romish calendar…….was a
      native of Tyre, and flourished in the fourth century…." (JOHN
      AIKIN, General Biography,Vol.4, London, 1803.p.254)

      8……… "Frumentius was a native of Tyre, and flourished in the
      fourth century." (JOHN GORTON, General Biographical Dictionary, New
      Edition Vol1, London, Whittaker and Co, 1838 p.FRY-FUL)

      9…….Edwards says: "The Bishop of India was present, and signed
      his name at the council of Nice, in 325. The next year Frumentius was
      consecrated to that office by Athanasius, of Alexandria, and founded
      many churches in India. The Syrian Christians enjoyed a succession of
      bishops, appointed by the Patriarch of Antioch, from the beginning of
      the 3rd century, till they were invaded by the Portuguese. They still
      retain the Liturgy anciently used in the churches of Syria, and employ
      in their public worship the language spoken by our Saviour in the
      streets of Jerusalem." (BELA BATES EDWARDS, The Missionary
      Gazetteer, William Hyde & Co., Boston, 1832. p.162; `Syrian
      Christians in Travancore', Introduction to the Eclectic Reader,
      Perkins & Marvin, Boston, 1833. p. 40.)

      Fr. Prince Mannathoor
      Pontifical Oriental University, Rome.
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