Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries Historical themes


Al-Rum al-Orthodox 
By Metropolitan of Byblos and Botrys (Mount Lebanon), George (Khodr)
 Source: http://www.georgeskhodr.org/pdf/20100313-Nahar-AlRum%20AlOrthodox.pdf



Their Church has apostolic roots, meaning that there has never been a time since the day of Pentecost when it did not exist, and meaning that it was not founded by any human. In the older terminology of the Church, it is said of the Faith that it is Orthodox, which is a Greek word meaning “of right opinion” or “giving right glory.” That is, correct opinion is revealed in worship. Thus, it was not originally called the Orthodox Church. It was only called the Universal Church (“Catholic” in Greek).

The Rum Orthodox Church was called Orthodox Catholic in later eras. The two terms are in fact synonymous. So Orthodoxy is the equivalent of Catholicity, and is not dependent on anything linguistically. The Muslim Arabs called what is now the Church of the Rum Melkite, or royal, because they considered them at the time to be of the religious opinion of the Byzantine emperors. This was not always true since we differed with the Byzantine patriarchs for a short time during the reign of Heraclius, who was a supporter of Monothelitism, and we differed with the patriarchs who fought against icons, ending in 843.

It remains that the dominant Arabic name was true, because the Rum mentioned in the Quran were the Eastern Romans, that is the Byzantine Empire, which is the Western name for the Romans of the East who considered themselves to be of the Roman Empire, which in their view was still undivided. This is a mistake that Europeans fell into when they translated the term “al-Rum al-Orthodox” as “grec orthodoxe” in French and similarly in English. We are not tiny remnants of Alexander’s Greek army who settled these coasts. Panteleimon al-Jawzi, compiler of the Russian-Arabic dictionary, affirmed that at the coming of Christ’s apostles to Syria or the Fertile Crescent we were Aramaians. The expression “Rum Orthodox” thus does not mean that we are of Greek descent.

Liturgical language is a different matter. It was Greek in the cities, the result of Alexander’s occupation, and Syriac in the countryside. This has nothing to do with sectarian differences. All the Christians used Greek or Syriac, according to their region. Our language gradually became Arabized and we have written in Arabic since the ninth Christian century and we have been eloquent in it since the eleventh century, when we debated the Muslims in the court of the Abbasid caliph in Baghdad, and their language was no more beautiful than ours. Syriac remained beside Arabic in Church services and priests would use this language according to what their flock knew. That is, the Byzantine liturgy was performed in Syriac for a long time and the Gospel was read in it in our churches until the sixteenth century.







Article published in English on: 14-4-2011.

Last update: 14-4-2011.