The Christian Arab Heritage
By Dr. Fr.Labib Kobti
What is the Christian Heritage| Who are the Arab Christian Fathers | A Conclusion
We are absolutely in need here in America to know about our Christian heritage. Al-Bushra will help you discover that "Heritage".
We all know that the Arabs existed before Islam. They were mentioned in history and in the Bible centuries before the coming of the Arab Prophet Muhamed.
Kingdoms like the Gassanids and the Muntherites were Christian kingdoms (from the third century to the eight century) modeled after the Roman and the Byzantine Empires. Some Bedwin tribes were alsoChristians. They had a common language, the Arabic language.
We know also that mainly the Christian tradition at that time was using the Aramean and Syriac languages in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine,the Chaldean and Assyrian languages in Iraq, the Coptic language in Egypt,the Arabic in those kingdoms mentioned above and between Arab bedwins.Those languages are used still now in the liturgy of the Eastern Churches.Greek and Latin were the languages of culture and philosophy. They wereused every where in the Roman or the Greek Empire had their colonies orinfluence.Latin and Greek are used in the liturgy of the Latin CatholicChurch (the Roman Catholic), Greek is used in the liturgy of the GreekOrthodox Church.
2- What is the Arab Christian Heritage?
The " Arab Christian Heritage" is mainly known in the period between 750-1350 A.D. At that time our Arab Christian Fathers started touse the Arabic language so as to defend their Christian faith and beleives against the Muslims. They wrote in different issues: theology, philosophy, interpretation of scriptures, apologetics, liturgy, history of the church,and many other things that do not concern faith like medicine, history,chemistry, geography etc. They used their old languages: Aramean, Syriac,Chaldean,.Assyrian, Coptic and translated into Arabic a lot of their bookson different issues.
They translated from Greek and Latin as well what the Greek Fathers and Latin Fathers wrote. Then after the coming of Islam they started to write in Arabic to their people and to the Muslinis in order to speak about their faith.
Many Christians at that time, because of certain unfair treatment from the Muslin Califs or governors and under certain pressure became Muslims.
The arabic language was imposed first in Egyptin the year 780 (about 140 years after the coming of Islam). Then slowly and slowly other Arabic Countries of today started to use the Arabic languageas an official Ianguage, as in Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon etc.
The "Arab Christian Heritage" is the heritage that covers mainly the period between the 8th century tothe 14th. This heritage is the third heritage after the Greek and Latin.It is in some words the writings that we have in Arabic language, translated from other languages: Greek, Latin, Aramean, Syriac, Coptic, Chaldean, Assyrian, Persian, Armenian etc.) or produced properly in Arabic. The recent European Ianguages (Italian, French, German English etc) started at the14th century to become official languages, about 600 years after our Christian Heritage.
It is the writings of the Christian Fathers. They gave us a full idea about their faith, believes, liturgy, way of life, traditions, historyof the Church, apologetics etc. They wrote also on issues other than faith,like medicene, philosophy, geography, history, chemistry etc.
" By "Arab Christian heritage"Arab means: the Arabic language known and spoken in the Arabian peninsula and by the Arab kingdoms before Islam. It means also the regions that used the Arabic language since 8th century as their official language. Arabic covers also beside the language, the traditions, the culture the way oflife, the food, the folklore, the civilizations etc. It covers today the"Arabic Countries". They have in common those issues mentioned above.
Arab does not mean Islam, even though Islam used the Arabic language since its origin. You can find today millions and millions of Muslims whodo not relate to the Arabic language. They are Muslims but not Arabs, likeI ndonesia, Pakistan, Afganistan, India, Turky, Iran etc.. It is known thatthe Arabic Northern characters used by the Quran were created by the Chistian Missionaries of Hira, centuries before Islam, as says C. Rabin in art."Arabiyya, in "Encyclopedie de l'Islam", 2nd ed.,I (Leyde et Paris, 1960, pp.579a-622b).
That the first Northern Arabic letters were found on the church doors in Zabad on the South East of Aleppo in Syria on 512 A.D. And an other in Ir. Haran on 568 A.D. In Mecca itself centuries before Islam the Arab people used the Northern Arabic letters. Christians there, had their schools and churches, they used Arabic in their liturgy poetry and in commerce.
Prophet Mohamed, and after him the Califs used these characters to write the Quran as says Jawad Ali, in his book "The history of Arabs before Islam" volume 8 pp. 178-179, and Vol 6, page 689. We can find thesites of the churches, temples and houses of our ancestors everywhere in today Arabic Countries especially in Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine.
Recently Father Pecerillo, a famous Franciscan Archiologist, found morethan twenty churches in Madaba at the south of Jordan. From the Forth Century we found houses in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine with this inscriptionin Arabic :"Bism El-Lah al Rahman al Rahim" that showed that Christians were the first to use this name so as to indicate their beliefin the Holy Trinity, more than two hundred years before Islam.
In different region of the actual Arabic Countries, Christians had Eparchies (dioceses and bishops). All over the actual Iraq, Syria Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia: (Mekka itself), Algeria, Tunisia, Lybia, Palestineetc. you can find the sites of churches, convents and Christian centers and schools. Today, archeology tells us a lot about these monuments. Recently a convent was discovered in Karbala (Iraq) that returns to the 1st centuryof Chistianity. The oldest one that was discovered ever since was in theForth Century.
We, Arab Christians of today, who live in the Middle East, are the real heirs of that "Heritage". In our way of thinking, worshiping, doing things, we refIect what our ancestors had lived centuries before us. We are the heirs of the first Christians,the heirs of both Old and New Testaments. We are the first Communities:of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandia.
3- Who are the Arab Christian Fathers?
"Father" is a bishop, a priest , or a simple lay man who wrote in Arabic or translated to Arabic from the 8th to 14th Century what we call today the "Arab Christian Heritage". A lot of those Fathers were martyrized with their folk defending their Christian faith and tradions.
Arab Christian means then these Christians who first came from the Syriac, Chaldean, Assyrian, Arabic, Coptic, Greek or Latin traditions, they are the first converted to Christianity, "the first Christians ever" and who spoke Arabic, wrote in Arabic, translated into Arabic and declared their faith in Arabic language later on between the 8th and 14th centuries.
"Al-Bushra" is willing to serve th Christians all over the word and tell them about the Arab Christian Heritage. We would like also to serve the unity of the Church, as well as the dialogue with Muslimsand Jews.
We will try to give a scientific studies about our "Arab ChistianHeritage".We want you to be proud of our traditions.
Some times because of events in our today's Arabic Countries and becauseof a lot of misleading in the Media about the Arabs, and under an unfairclaims against Arabic Countries or traditions, a lot of people do not know the truth about our Arabic language, tradition, history, Arab Christians, Islam, harmony between Muslims and Christians. Some young Arab generations feel ashamed of their Arab origin because of what the Media created inthe mentality of people about Arabs.
Al-Bushra will tell you about our Arab common heritage so as to serve the truth and serve the harmony between the five components of our MiddleEast society: Jews, Christians and Muslims, Israelis and Arabs.
AI-Bushra calls everybody to know us more and to find in us friends, brothers and sisters of the same God, Allah, Yahweh, Adonai. It calls Ara bChristians and Muslims, the blood brothers, to be proud of our Arab language,history and traditions. It calls Arabs and Israelis: the Semites, sonsof Abraham to find peace of heart as a start of Justice and comprehensive peace in the Middle East, where Jews, Chrstians and Muslims, Israelis and Arabs should live in harmony, cooperation and love, when they recognizein the others their equal in duties and responsabilities.