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tell yet more powerfully on their less civilized brethren, and, through them, on all classes of the wild mountaineers.
It is very difficult to arrive at even tolerable accuracy, in estimating the number of the Nestorian Christians. The methods of obtaining such statistics among Orientals are very indefinite and unsatisfactory. The population of a town, village or district is usually estimated by the number of families; a given number of individuals being assumed as the average in each family. But in the primitive, patriarchal style of living which obtains in these countries, where three, four and even five generations, as the case may be, dwell together—the number of persons in a family varying from five to thirty and even more it is impossible to fix accurately on an average. Ten is the number often assumed for this purpose.
In the Koordish mountains, the population is frequently computed by the soldiers that can be rallied on an emergency, every male adult being reckoned as a soldier. But this method is even more indefinite than the other; and in those wild, inaccessible regions, there is this additional difficulty, that the number of houses and soldiers is but very imperfectly known.
The number of the Nestorian Christians, as nearly as I can ascertain it, is about one hundred and forty thousand. Tiareeby far the largest and most populous district—has about fifty thousand inhabitants. It is inhabited exclusively by Nestorians, and, as already stated, is quite independent of the Koords. In all the other districts of the mountains, there may be sixty thousand Nestorians. And in the province of Ooroomiah, including the adjacent districts on this side of the mountains, there are about thirty thousand. One hundred and forty thousand is certainly a small number for a nation, or an ancient sect of Christians. But the history of this people, in connection with their present circumstances and character, as was suggested at the commencement of this article, invests this little remnant with an interest independent of numbers.
To the Christian scholar, the language and literature of the
literary language of the Nestorians; in it their books are all written, and in it they conduct their epistolary correspondence. Though a dead language, the best educated of their clergy converse in it with fluency. Their written character differs considerably from that of the Western, or Jacobite Syrians, which is the character best known to European scholars. The former was never, to my knowledge, in type, until A. D. 1829, when an edition of the Gospels was printed in it by the British and Foreign Bible Society. It much resembles the Estrangelo, and the Nestorians have some old books written in this character, and they still use it for capital letters. The common Nestorian character is very beautiful, and so agreeable to the eye, that members of our mission, when incapacitated by ophthalmy from reading English without pain, are able to read it with but little inconvenience.—The vowels used by the Nestorians are points, and not the Greek vowels inverted, as used by the Western Syrians.
The vernacular language of the Nestorians is a modern dialect of the ancient Syriac, much barbarized by inversions, contractions and abbreviations, and by the introduction of a great number of Persian, Turkish and Koordish words, each class prevailing, in given districts, according to their proximity to either of those nations. Thus corrupted, however, the body of the language comes directly from the venerable Syriac, as clearly as the modern Greek does from the ancient. Some critics have questioned this opinion, supposing that the language of the Nestorians is a modern dialect of the ancient Chaldaic, though all their literature is in the ancient Syriac, and their written correspondence is still conducted in that language. It is incumbent on such as sustain this view, to point out the difference between the Chaldaic and the Syriac, and to show that the spoken language of the Nestorians is more allied to the former than to the latter. I will insert in this connexion a brief extract from a letter which I received from the first editor* of the Repository; whose learned researches on this and kindred subjects entitle his opinion to the highest deference. “Professor Roediger,”+ he says, “proposes to go on and publish a fuller account of the Syriac language as now spoken among the Nestorians. The views contained in your letter leave no room to doubt of the
of Mesopotamia, is the same. I have myself had no doubt of this before; although on inquiry of R— and of Mr. Sin Constantinople, I could get no satisfactory information from either. The prevailing view among scholars at present, is, that the ancient Chaldee and the Syriac are, at the bottom, the same dialect; the former having developed itself in a more Jewish form and adopted the Hebrew alphabet; and the latter having been diffused among Christians with a different alphabet ; i. e. one being a Hebraizing Aramaean, and the other, a Christian Aramaean. A similar fact exists now, in relation to the Servian and Illyrian languages. They are the same, or nearly so, as spoken ; but the Servians are Greek Christians, and use a peculiar alphabet ; while the Illyrians are Catholics, and write with the Latin letters.” I may add, that one of my respected associates, the Rev. Mr. Holladay, and myself have taken some pains to compare the language of the Nestorians with the Chaldaic, as exhibited in the books of Daniel and Ezra, and at the same time with the ancient Syriac of those portions of Scripture; and the result has been a most decided preponderance, in favor of deriving this modern language directly from the Syriac.
Very little attempt had been made to reduce the vernacular language of the Nestorians to writing, until we commenced our missionary operations. The ancient Syriac being a dead language, and entirely unintelligible to the people until studied as a learned tongue, it seemed to us, at the outset, quite indispensable to the due accomplishment of our object, to make their modern dialect the medium of written as well as oral instruction. Some theoretic philologists question the propriety of reducing to writing any of the spoken languages of the Oriental Christians, and perhaps some other vernacular Asiatic languages, advising that the people should be carried back to the readoption of their ancient tongues. Such philologists should remember, that popular language is not that tractable thing which will always come and go at one's bidding, -and especially, march far in a retrograde direction; that it is an absolute sovereign, whom we may conciliate, but whom we try in vain to
another remark from Prof. Robinson's letter. He says: “ There can be no doubt, I think, as to the propriety and necessity of cultivating the modern Syriac, in the manner you mention, any more than there is in the case of modern Greek. It is the language and the only language of the people, and must remain so, though it should be purified
refined, by a reference to the ancient language, so far as possible.” We have, from the first, been fully impressed, in attempting to reduce this spoken dialect to writing, with the high importance of shaping it, so far as is practicable, to the very perfect model of the ancient Syriac; and we strenuously urge on the Nestorians the continued study of the latter, as a learned language. It is visionary, however, to suppose that they could ever be brought to adopt this as their vernacular tongue. By the blessing of God on our labors, we have succeeded in putting considerable portions of the Scriptures and some other matter into this new, and, to the Nestorians, attractive costume.
Of the venerable ancient Syriac, once so highly and extensively cultivated and so rich in its literary stores, as of the unfortunate people who use it, we now find but little more than its ashes. The number of works at present extant among the Nestorians is very limited, and copies of these are extremely rare. The library of the Patriarch,—which had often been represented to us as absolutely prodigious, and might actually appear so to these simple-hearted people, who are acquainted with no method of making books save by the slow motion of the pen,-is found to consist of not more than sixty volumes, and a part of these are duplicates. And no other collection, to compare with this, exists among them. Three, five or ten books, for a large village, or a district even, has been regarded as a liberal supply. The few which they do possess, however, are objects of deep interest. Among them are found the whole of the Holy Scriptures,-save the book of Revelation, which exists in none of their manuscript copies, and seems not to have been known to them, until introduced by us in the printed editions of the British and Foreign Bible Society. They make no objection to it in that connexion, but readily recognise and acknowledge it as canonical. Their Scriptures do not occur in one volume, but usually in six, the division being as follows. 1. The Pentateuch (Ovrata), copies of which are not so rare as of some other portions. 2. The remaining books of the Old Testament to the Psalms, with the exception of the two books of Chronicles (Bitmetuwee)-copies rare. 3. The two books of Chronicles (Dbereamin), copies of which are very rare. 4. The Psalms (Dàvid, or Mismoree)—copies comparatively plenty
apochryphal work, Ecclesiasticus, or the Wisdom of Sirach (Hahumtha d'bar Seerah). The Nestorians have also, in a separate volume, a work purporting to be the revelation of Paul (Gileeana d'Paulus), which is said to consist of communications of what he saw, when he was caught up to the third heaven.
The principal books containing the church services of the Nestorians are the following. 1. Alternate prayers for each day in two weeks (Kdăm Dooatha). 2. Prayers for every day in the year except the Sabbath and festivals (Keshkool). 3. Prayers for the Lord's day and other festivals (Hoodra) 4. Prayers for festivals not in Lent (Gezza). 5. Services for the communion, ordination, baptism and consecration of churches (Takhsa). 6. Legends of the Saints, read in the churches during some of the fasts (Werda). 7. Marriage services (Barukta). 8. Funeral services (Oneeda). A small Romish legend is also found among them, claiming to be an epistle that descended from heaven at Rome, about the year A. D. 777, being engraved by the finger of God on a table of ice! After detailing a pompous array of signs and wonders that attended its descent, it proceeds to enjoin the observance of the laws of God and of the church, and denounces fearful threatenings on the disobedient. It is entitled, The Epistle of the Sabbath (Agertha d'Hosheeba), i. e. it descended on the Sabbath, and demands a reading every Sabbath. It is very little used by the Nestorians. Reciting the Psalms comprises a very considerable part of the daily church service of the Nestorians. The Gospels are also read, particularly on the Sabbath and on festival occasions. The Epistles and the Old Testament, though less frequently, are read in their churches.
The Nestorians have a book containing the laws and canons of their church (Sünhādos*). They have also some of the writings of the Fathers (Avahatha), and traditions (Teshaiathee); Books of Martyrs (Sadee); and Commentaries (Nooharee) on all portions of the Scriptures, some of which are very entertaining and instructive, but others are equally puerile.
* When the Syriac literature was in its greatest prosperity, the Greek literature was much cultivated by the Syrians, who introduced almost innumerable terms on religious, moral and philosophic subjects from the Greek into their own language, This word, Sunhados (Synod), is an instance, and several others which follow.