Saturday, October 13, 2012

Marcionites in Iran

Another indisputable indication of this connection is that Kartir, the dogmatic Zoroastrian church leader, in his Ka'ba-yi Zartust inscription of about 280 (under Bahrain II), refers to the persecution (= "to beat, kill") of Christians ("Nazaraeans (n'cl'y) and Christians" (klstyd'n). A person as self-important as Kartir would not have named an unimportant and meaningless minority in an official inscription ad majorem gloriam religionis zoroastricae. Christianity was for Kartir an opponent to be taken seriously. The use of the double expression also indicates this. To understand this correctly has been and still is a problem, but a solution may be sought against the background of the supply of large contingents of Greek-speaking Christians to the Sasanian empire, probably on two occasions (256 and 260), during the war against the Romans. These were provided by Shapur's deportations of the population of Antioch and other cities. These were provided by Shapur's deportations of the population of Antioch and other cities. Among the many people thus taken to Iran as spoils of war and left in Persis, Parthia, Susiana (Khuzistan) and Babylonia (Asuristan, Bet Aramaye) as subjects "belonging to the king "'were ordinary priests as well as high church dignitaries such as Demetrius/Demetrianus of Antioch. These prisoners, in other words, made up organized communities with their own religious language and their own church leaders, and they retained both in their Syriacspeaking, fellow-Christian surroundings. Thus, according to the " Seert Chronicle", there were two churches at Rev-Ardashir in Persis, both with their own languages, Greek and Syriac. In Susiana, open strife developed between the two Christian parties because each had its own and neither appeared to be willing to acknowledge or give in to the other. In the eyes of the Iranians they must have seemed two peculiar forms of Christianity that they took for granted a classification distinguishing between Greek-speaking and Syriac-speaking Christians. This concept, however, does not prevent J. de Menasce's assumption from also being correct: that "Christians" meant " Marcionites ". The "Acts of the Martyrs", in two incidents, even emphasize directly that the Marcionites in their mistaken belief called themselves "Christians" (krestyane), as opposed to the genuine Syriac expressions nasaraya and masihaya. The Marcionites' use of the term, however, was locally restricted to those areas where they were in the majority or represented exclusively the Greek-speaking element, as "where they introduced Christianity, 'Christian' was to them the only natural word". It is therefore quite correct for the Mar Aba text to refer to the identification krestyana (marqiona) as being "normal custom here" (yada datnan) as the designation "krestyana" in Syriac literature was not reserved exclusively for Marcion's followers. [The Cambridge History of Iran: Seleucid Parthian edited by E. Yarshater p. 949]

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