A Brief History of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch
The Syriac Orthodox Church is one of the most ancient Christian Churches tracing its roots to the Church of Antioch. The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts of the Apostles 11:26, 14:26). It is the first Church which was established in Jerusalem out of the Apostles, Preachers and other converted Jews, and was grafted in Antioch by those who were converted from among the Arameans and other gentile elements. It can justifiably claim the wealthiest liturgical and musical heritage, besides a proud theological and missionary record. It suffered untold hardships and tragedies including massacres and repeated transfer of the See of the Patriarchate from one area to another due to political and other developments. Historians declare that the survival of this Church was nothing but a miracle.
Even though the Church suffered all kinds of tortures and hardships through its history right from its establishment, but by the grace of God, today the church is spread around the globe spanning universe countries headed by a patriarch residing at Damascus in Syria. It produced a line of succession beginning with Apostle Peter which continues to this day in the Syriac Orthodox Church. The line of 123 Patriarchs spans twenty centuries, from St. Peter the Apostle to Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church.
The foundation of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch can be traced back to the very dawn of Christianity. It is the first established church in Christendom which gathered converted Jews and Gentiles in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and second church after that of Jerusalem. According to ecclesiastical history and tradition, St. Peter the Apostle established a bishopric in Antioch and became its first bishop and was succeeded by Evodius for the converted Jews and St. Ignatius the Illuminator for the converted Gentiles. After the martyrdom of St. Peter in Rome, was succeeded by St. Evodius and St. Ignatius respectively. Likewise, St. Peter was succeeded by a line of distinguished Patriarchs, most of whom amazed the world with their sanctity, wonderful writings and other accomplishments in many fields. The See of Antioch then becomes the first, the oldest, and the most famous Church in Christianity. It was the foundation of the Christianity in the East and mother of the gentile churches and the headquarters of Christianity in Asia. It’s proud to be the origin of the word Christian; it was in Antioch, after all, that the followers of Jesus Christ were called Christians as we are told in the New Testament, “The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” (Acts 11:26).