Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Did Jesus' Relatives Emigrate to Ancient Iraq?

As we watch the unfolding catastrophe overtaking Christianity in Iraq, our first concern must of course be with the welfare of present-day victims. But we should never forget just who these people are, and the deep roots of the churches they represent. Some of the legends associated with that tradition make amazing claims for Christian origins, claims that might just possibly be true.

In the early Christian era, Mesopotamia (Iraq) was a thriving center of rabbinic Judaism, and throughout the first millennium it was the intellectual capital of that faith. Given the Jewish background, naturally we find very early Christian settlements in Iraq. Within the Persian empire, the greatest seat of church power was at the capital Seleucia-Ctesiphon. The city’s bishop – later the patriarch – ruled from there until the move to Baghdad in early Islamic times. 

Eastern church tradition even claimed that early Christian migrants to Iraq included relatives of Jesus himself. Please bear with me when I report these claims, and don’t accuse me of becoming Dan Brown. I don’t claim precise validity for much of the later source material in terms of the details they offer of first or second century history, or of any particular names, but the general picture is surprisingly plausible. It’s totally different from, say, medieval legends suggesting that Mary Magdalene died in France, or Joseph of Arimathea in England.

Interesting?  Read the remainder at Aleteia.org

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