"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." Rev. 3: 20

Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch + Archdiocese of the Western USA


The Church & the Bible


Rev. Dr. Kurien Kaniamparambil Corepiscopa

Bertrand Russel’s book, “why I am not a Christian?” is famous. Whether his speculations and calculations to cause an earthquake in the Christian world, had been fruitful or futile, is evident from the fact that even at present 99% of Christians irrespective of Christological divisions still believe that Christ, is God – incarnated, and the Savior of mankind. His reasoning didn’t make even a shake or shock. Neither the Herodian inhumanity, nor the Roman royal atrocities, nor the 20th century Bolshvison could minimize even a bit of religious orthodoxy. 

I am Syrian Christian by birth and most of my readers too, the same, by the will of God. I was born in a noble Syrian Christian family noted for the orthodoxy and active participation in Church affairs. Let us praise God, who blessed us to be born of Christian parents. 

Origin in a Christian family, doesn’t make one “a Christian” a Son of God (1 Jn.3), neither he is competent, unless, he is baptized (Jn.3) or in other words, “be born again”. The advice or command of St. Peter to the penitents on the day of Pentecost and to the Jailer, point to this unavoidable necessity and hence, the Church so amended that the rebirth should follow the natural birth, as early as possible and it became the custom from Apostolic times and in the early centuries, of which we have reliable evidence from Apostolic fathers. 

1) St. Iraneus, disciple of Polycarp, disciple of St.John – has given testimony. Hippolitus (244 AD) says, “Baptism the children first, and if they can speak, let them do so. Otherwise let their parents or relatives, speak for them”. Origen (185AD), “The church received from the Apostles the traditions of giving baptism even to children”. St.Cyprian (200), “Infants should be baptized as early as possible so that the mercy and grace of God ought to be denied to no man, born”. 

2) All the ancient churches (irrespective of their christological and doctrinal differences) the Syrian, the Roman Catholic, and Armenian all are baptizing infants. The Church of England in the Book of Common Prayer – there is the Ministration of Baptism of Infants. Biblically : the Old Testament (OT) orders circumcision on the 8th day of the child. 

3) Our Lord blessed children even before their birth – while in the womb – God blessed children (Jer. 1.5) John (Lk.1.15, 41), David (Ps.71.6). 

4) During the Apostolic period, soon after the baptism an anointing unction followed (rubbing with oil as is seen in 1 Jn.2.20). Some may doubt, whether there had been the use of oil among the faithful at the time of the apostle, Mark 6 and James 5.5 give an affirmative answer. In Old Testament (OT) times, anointing was only to priests and kings. In New Testament (NT), it followed to every faithful and thus the faithful is said to be ‘Royal’ and ‘Priestly’ as seen in the Epistle. 

Dionysus of Ariusphagos (Acts 17.34) says :- ‘He who has received the Holy sacrament of regeneration also receives the abiding of the Holy Spirit through his anointing of perfection by the Holy Mooron’. “It is on this account, we are called Christians, because we are anointed with the oil of God” – says, St. Theophilos (185) Tertjvilian (165) says. “After this, having come out from the bath, we are anointed with a blessed unction, according to the ancient rule. The flesh is anointed, so that the soul may be dedicated to holiness. “St. Hoppolis the 3rd century and St. Cyprian, St. Ephraim of the 4th century and other Doctors of the Church wrote about the Holy Mooron. “The ancient custom, still continued in the Eastern Churches was to administer it to the infants. In the west it became usual in the “middle ages” to postpone it - the age of reason “Dr.Mos” the (Christian Church). 

THE NEXT STEP is vividly shown in Acts Ch.2. (Those who were being saved were added to the CHURCH. Membership in the Church is the most necessary condition regarding salvation. Why? 

1) The Church is the Body of Christ. (Rom.12.5) 
2) It is the House of God, the Pillar and ground of Truth (1 Tim.2.15). 
3) It is our Lord’s (Math;16.16) 
4) A teaching Church (Math;28.30) 
5) A witnessing Church (Acts.1.8) 
6) A Hierarchical Church, with Bishops, Priests and deacons (Acts.Ch.6, Ch.20 etc) 
7) Guided by the Holy Spirit (Jn 16.13). 

St. Ignatius, the martyr successor of St.Peter in Antioch has recorded that – “without Bishops there is no CHURCH”. 

In this connection a Christian should note (1) the uniqueness of Christ and (2) that of the Church. 

(1) Christ is the only one who rose after death. 
(2) Christ is the only one who said that he came to save sinners and not the just. (Nor for ‘Parithranaya Saaduan and Vinasaya Dushkrishan, to save the guest and demolish the wicked (Bhagavat Geetha). 
(3) I came not to be ministered but to minister and give myself. 
(4) Christ is the only one, whose, birth, life and manner of death were foretold by Prophets, centuries ago. 
(5) He was the only one, who was sinless. He did challenge his adversaries 
(6) He was the only one, who promised that he would come again. 

And the CHURCH, He founded is unique. From its beginning, it had to face oppositions and persecutions. The first persecution was from Jews and the first Martyr was St. Stephan. All the Apostiles died martyrs, except St. John who had to suffer persecutions. The next persecutions were from Roman Emperors, beginning from Nero, who massacred St. Peter and St. Paul. Christians without number were brutally put to death among whom the names of St. Ignatius Noorono, St.Polycarp and others. 

But in course of time the Lord and Master of the Church changed the situation, through the conversion of Constantine in the beginning of the 4th century, and thus the forbidden religion became the state religion. 

The next persecution was monitored by Heretics such as Arivs, Maccadonius, Nestor and a host of others, with help from the rulers. That too the church overcomes through the General Councils of Nicaea, Constantinople and Ephesus. 

In spite of all these adverse circumstances, of the 700 crores of the world population, nearly 400 crores are Christians. The Roman Catholic Church topping the list. What other narration is required to show the uniqueness of Christianity? 

It is really lamentable, that new sects, sprouted up from the 19th century onwards are seen uncontrollable menace to the Church of Christ and its Apostolic faith, main reason being the lack of faith and indifference of members of Apostolic Churches, who as Sri. Narayana Guru said ‘Mathm Eytayalum Manuzhan Nannayal Mathi”, think, that it is not the Church, but devotion to Christ, is what is necessary. 

Which is this Church? 

1. The Church of which Christ said ‘I will build “My” Church (Math;16.16) 
2. The Church which our Lord entrusted St. Peter to feed and govern (Jn.21) 
3. The Church, the Sacramental authority Christ gave to all the Apostles, present in the Upper Room. (Jn.20) 
4. The Church to which Christ gave the authority to preach, baptize, forgive sins and after the Holy Eucharist. 
5. The Church to which the baptized were accepted. 
6. ‘Acts’ is the early history of this Church. 
7. The Apostolic authority in the Church, conferred on others by the ‘Laying of Hands’ (Deacons (Acts.6) Thimotheus (2Tim.1), (Titus 1) 
8. It is ‘this “My Church” that repudiated the heresy of Arius (who denied the deity of the son) and that of Macedonius (who denied the deity of the Holy Spirit) and of Nestor (who propagated the heresy that Christ had two natures and two persons) in the Synod’s Nicaea, Constantinople and Ephesus (325, 381 and 431 AD) respectively. 
9. It is this Church, that codified the canonical books of the NT at the synod of Carthage in 391. 
10. It is the Church of which Christ appointed St. Peter as, the visible head, which for convenience of administration, was divided in to four Patriarchates (6th canon of Nicaea 325). These Patriarchates expanded the Church and claim the succession from St. Peter. 

It is therefore crystal clear that these divisions ‘alone’ have the privilege of being the ‘only church’, which Christ qualified as “My Church”, and the numerous other churches that are not able to produce evidence for this enviable continuation of succession from any of the Apostles do not come to the list of churches. 

Syrian Church is not only one of the four, but is of the ‘First’, since it had its beginning as early as AD37, that by the Head of the Apostles – at Antioch. To be called a Church according to NT, it has to produce evidence that its beginning is from the Church which Christ termed ‘My Church.’ We belong to this Church, being members of the Syrian Church. 

A Church, claiming to be the Church of Christ is duty bound to show its Apostolicity in the Holy Orders (Priesthood) and in the Doctrines Apostolic. 

In the Nicene creed we declare that we believe in ‘the one Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church. The Church is ONE. 

One Holy……The chief marks of the Church are four. It is ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC & APOSTOLIC (Nicene creed). Sacred scripture teaches that the one true Church of Christ must have these marks, and the marks are an indication that God guides the Church. 

The Church is One because all its members, according to the will of Christ, profess the same faith, have the same sacrifice and sacraments. (1 Cor.10.17, Rom.12:4,5, Eph.4:4-6).

The Church is Holy because it was founded by Jesus Christ, who is all holy and because it teaches according to the will of Christ, holy doctrines, and provides the means of leading a holy life thereby giving holy members in every generation. This is evident from the prayer of Christ for His Apostles. The lives of the saints and martyrs prove how effective are the means of grace with which the Church is endowed. It might be true some members do not use the means of grace at their disposal. Christ foretold that there would be good and bad members in His Church, as we read in the parables of the fishes in net, and the cockle among the wheat. (math. 7;15-20, Titus 2:13-14, 1Jn.3:5). 

The Church is Catholic, because it is destined to last for all time it never fails to fulfill the divine commandment to teach all the truths revealed by God. 

Christ asked his Apostles to go forth and make disciples of all nations and to teach all that, he has commanded, and promised them that, he would be with them even to the end of time. The Church today teaches the same doctrine, it received from Christ. It has existed, since the day it was established, tiding over persecutions. But Christian ‘sects’ began later, many of which became extinct after some time and new ones sprouted up to in recent years, twisting verses of the NT as to suit their opinion. (Math.24:14, Mk.16:15, 16, Acts 1:8). 

The mark ‘Catholic’ was given more stress by, the western Church, whereas the mark, ‘holy’ (orthodox) was used by the Eastern Church eg. ‘Roman Catholic’, Syrian Orthodox” etc. 

Because the feeding of the Church was entrusted to St. Peter and in union with him other apostles spread, taught and governed the Church and after their time by other lawful successors and preserve the same doctrine. (Math. 16:18, Hn.21) 

He who fails to trace his Church’s apostolic doctrine there by concedes that his sect is not apostolic. 

The Church is called the mystical Body of Christ, “because its members are united by supernatural bonds with one another and with Christ, their Head, thus resembling the members and Head of the living human body’. 


St. Clement – (92-101 AD), ‘Through country side the apostles preached and they appointed their earlier converts, testing them by spirit to be the Bishops and Deacons of future believers’. 

St. Ignatius (98-117), we must look upon the Bishop as the Lord himself. 

St. Iraneous(177AD), it is necessary to obey those who are presbyters in the Church, those who have succession from the Apostles, those who have received with the succession of the Episcopate, the sure Charisma of truth…. But the rest who have no part in the primitive succession, and assemble where-so-ever they  must be held in suspicion. 

Those who make Schism… who look to their own advantage rather than to the unity of the Church, who for any kind of trifling reason, cut apart and divide the body of Christ…. they are outside the bonds of truth. 

Tertultian (196), we walk in the rule, which the Church has handed down from Apostles, the Apostles from Christ Heretics cannot be Christians – Heretics have no fellowship in our discipline. Cyprain (258), there speaks Peter teaching in the name of the Church and showing that events if a stubborn and proud multitude withdraws from Christ. The people, joined to the priest and flock, clinging to their shepherd are the Church. You ought to know that the Bishop is in the Church and the Church in the Bishop… 

Firmilian (268), Heretics who have parted themselves from the Church can have nothing to do with power and Grace since all power and Grace is settled in the Church where, preside presbyters who possess the power both of baptizing and of imposing hands and of ordaining. 

St. Jerome- Heretics bring sentence upon themselves since by their own choice, withdraw from the Church and constitute damnation. Between heresy and schism this distinction to be made; that heresy invokes perverse doctrine, while schism separates from the Church on account of disagreement with the Bishop. 

Millions of copies of the Bible are in extent. The Syriac Peshitta version of the Bible is acclaimed as the most accurate (Helps to the study of the Bible - Oxford). It is this Bible that by the Grace of God, I translated into Malayalam. What induced me for the translation, is the drastic change (among others is Luka 11.28, where 'no' is used for – English ‘yea – yes’) and St. John 2-3, each group on Sect translates to suit its teaching. The article will be long if I quote all of them. I would request every reader to make a study of ‘Acts and Epistles' comparing authorized versions and new English Bible. In the list you will find drastic changes. To help you, please refer :- Acts.1.14, 1.20, 1.23, 2.47-48, 6.6, 14. 23, 19.18, 20.7, 22.16, Rom.15.15, 1Cor.1.2, 1.25, 1Tim.1.1, Tit.1.5, Heb.2.12, James.5.16, 1Jn.1.9, etc. There are other variations too. Since the boards of this NT were termed canonical by the CHURCH, the Church alone has the authority to interpret. This is why the Roman Catholics and the Syrians are particular in the matter of using Bibles, other than ours. This is why I published the New Testament commentary in Malayalam in accordance with the commentaries of the Holy Fathers of  the Church.


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