Traditions of the Syriac Church

The Traditions, Belief and Faith of the Syriac Orthodox Church constitute

The Holy Bible and the Apostolic Tradition.

The Syrian Orthodox Church gives the most prominent place to the Holy Bible. It is in Syriac called "Ktobo Kadisho" meaning the "Holy Book". Next to the main Altar in every church, there is a decorated portable 'Altar' in which the Holy New Testament is always placed. 

During the celebration of the Holy Qurbana and the administrations of the Sacraments, the lesson prescribed by the Holy Fathers are read with candles burning on either sides and the deacon offering incense. 

The celebrant kisses the Holy Book at the beginning and after he has finished reading the lessons (Evangelion). This is read out in local language at the prescribed times. The priest gives the exposition and exhortation based on the Lesson.

Only the version authorised by the Holy Church are read since most other translations contains passages that has been translated to suit their own interpretations.


The New Testament.

The name GOSPEL is applied to the four inspired histories which contain the good tidings of salvation through the life, death, resurrection of Jesus Christ. The word Gospel is the old translation of the Greek word 'Evangelion'. though four in number, the inspired histories constitute one Gospel  as presented in the minds of four different writers. 

The first three give a general view of our Lord's life and teachings and therefore called 'Synoptical'.The fourth is supplementary and doctrinal. The four Gospels have often been supposed to have been prefigured by four cherubims seen by Ezekiel in his vision.

All the books in the New Testament were written in the early Church. Neither our Lord, nor anybody during His lifetime wrote anything about Him. It was after the Pentecost all the books took shape and were closely connected with the life of the early Church. We see in them what the early Christians saw and heard from the Lord.

The shining fact we see is that it is the CHURCH which authoritatively decided what books are canonical and what was not. The testimony of Eusebius throws light on the matter. "The persecution of Diocletean AD 303 brought to the front the question of the sacred literatures of the Church." The persecutors demanded that the Scriptures should be given up which the Christians refused. Hence the urgent question of which books were Apostolic came up.

The answer lies in our New Testament Eusebius who wrote his Ecclesiastical history early in the fourth century,and discusses the question of Canon. He divided what was claimed to be sacred writings into 3 classes.Really Cool Christian Graphics -
  • Those universally accepted
  • Disputed books
  • Spurious writings composed by heretics.
The language of Eseubius illustrates the great care and caution exercised in the admittance of the books into the Canon. At length a decree was issued respecting the contents of the sacred books at the Council of Carthage AD 397 and the books of the New Testament as we now have them were settled by the authority of the Christian Church.

"THE CHURCH" gave the Bible. The origin of the present day 'churches' is the result of the misinterpretation of the Bible. Without a Rule of Faith, no church can exist. The Rule of Faith is that light or guide by which we learn with certainty the doctrine revealed by God, and the duties that bind us in order to attain salvation.

The Rule of Faith of the present "churches"

They say "The Bible is an all-sufficient guide to the truths taught by Christ." But you can see "There are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were all written, everyone, the world itself I think, could not contain the books that should be written. ( Jn.21:23). "Having more things to write to you, I would not by paper and ink for i hope that I shall be with you and speak face to face." 2 Jn.12

Then there are those who insist on "Bible and Bible only - no tradition." St.Paul in 2. Tesa.2:14 says, "But Brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you have learnt whether by word or by our Epistle." 

It is therefore clear that according to the testimony of the very same Bible, Christians should accept as the Rule of Faith the Bible as well as the Apostolic Traditions, namely those truths taught orally by the Apostles and kept all along the centuries by the Church. See again Lu.1:1-4; 2 Thess. 2:14; 2 Tim.1:13; 2:2

Again, there others who do not acknowledge any other authority than that of the Bible and reject every other teachings. But the following Jn.20:221; Math.28:18-20; Lu.10:16; Acts 20:27; Thes.5:12; 1Tim.5:17; Acts 2:42 will make it clear that we must hold not only the teachings of Christ contained in the Holy Scripture, but also to those of the Apostles and their successors till the end of time.

The Bible according to its own assertion, (2 Pet.3:16; Acts 8:29-34) is not easy to understand. There are passages difficult to interpret. Therefore, the Bible alone cannot be the supreme rule of Faith. wherever there is a law there is an interpreter. It is true that every person has an understanding. but it is the Holy Spirit that reveals the mysteries of God. 

If each one claims that his interpretation is right, all interpretations should be the same. because the holy Spirit would not impart different meanings to different persons. The individual is, to a certain extent, guided by the Holy Spirit in the ways of Holiness. In the knowledge of the revealed truth, he is to be guided by the Church which Christ sent to teach all nations.

Teaching authority is given to the Church (Math.28:18-20). In Old Testament too we see thew teaching authority is given to a particular sect. (Deut. 27:9-12; Mal.2:7; Math.23:1-3)

Before the invention of the printing press for fourteen centuries, the Bible manuscripts were few and far between. During this period, the Church appointed teachers for propagation of faith. The millions of Christians all down the centuries who possessed no copies of the Scriptures and could not read them. 

If Christ had intended the Bible as the only Rule of Faith for the 14 centuries, the attainment of eternal bliss would have been impossible for the faithful.

How do one know that the Bible is the Word of God ? One may answer we have Biblical testimony. This will not do, because the Bible does not say, which or how many books were written under divine inspiration. 
We believe in the inspiration of the Bible by infallible testimony of THE CHURCH, "the pillar and ground of the truth.The various translations have also given rise to numerous interpretations.

As regards private interpretations, let us remember the words of St. Peter. "The unlearned and the unstable wrested the epistles of St. Paul and the other scriptures to their destruction." 2. 3:16 and "that no prophecy of scripture is made by private interpretations, for prophecy came not of the will of man at any time, but the holy men of God spoke inspired by the Holy Spirit." 2. 1:20-21

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