Lecture 5 – First Hour
Individual Roles of The Missionary Team of St. Thomas
Including Addai & Mari, Aggai & Ahhay
a) St Thomas the Apostle, headed the missionary team to evangelize Parthia; he established a base in Edessa –a buffer state at the frontier– leaving there his companions Thaddaeus and Mari, while completing his travel through Mesopotamia, Parthia, up to India, where he died martyr; later, Edessa claimed and obtained his relics. No identified episcopal lineage or liturgical heritage remains from his apostolate.
b) Addai, Thaddaeus, endorsed by the favors of King Abgar, preached the Gospel in Edessa and its surroundings in upper Mesopotamia, including Hazza, Nineveh and BethGarmai, until his natural death in Edessa, after ordaining ministers and pastors, and appointing his successor: Aggai, who ended up martyr by orders of King Ma’nu, Abgar’s son; this king became an enemy of Christianity and persecutor of Christians. Understandably, a relic-cloth reflecting an image of Lord Jesus, would have to be concealed and hidden for protection would have a safe corner in the wall of the City, since around 57 AD until repair time of the wall after 525 AD deluge damage.
c) Mari, parted from Addai, descending to middle and lower Mesopotamia, including Qardu and BethZabdai, ending up in the Parthian Capital Ctesiphon, where he was allowed to preach the gospel and build a church in Kokhe (The Slums), at the same bank of Tigris river, certainly before 79 AD when the river changed its course, and Kokhe became by the side of Hellenistic Seleucia on the other bank. Mari could be considered factually the founder of the Patriarchate of Babylon, with Cathedral in Kokhe by Seleucia-Ctesiphon. The eucharistic liturgy bearing the name of Addai and Mari is a most precious jewel of apostolic heritage. Ahhai, is reported to be the companion and successor of Mari, succeeded by Abrys, then Abraham, then Jacob, the three of them being relatives of St. Joseph’s; remember the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 and 130 AD.
The Episcopal See of Erbil: If we believe a controversial Chronic under the name of MshyhaZkha as its pseudo-author, another route of evangelization is reported to have gone from Jerusalem to Northern Mesopotamia, including the regions of Erbil and BethZabday, where a first bishop, named Pqydha, has been ordained by Mar Addai for Erbil; after his death, Bishop Mazra came from BethZabday to Erbil and consecrated Shimshun as its bishop, who was ordained deacon by Pqydha. In this case, two lines of apostolic succession could be recognized within the Patriarchate of Babylon, one in Seleucia-Ctesiphon, the other in the North.
From Apostolic Time to c. 200 AD: Though writing in Edessa, Bardesan and his disciple Philip, testifies to the spread of Christianity through the Parthian Empire as a well known event, leaving clear mark in public behavior; he writes:
“Our brothers who are in Parthia doesn’t take two wives, those who are in Gilan and Kushan have no relationship with strangers, those are in Persia doesn’t marry their daughters, those who are in Media doesn’t abandon their dead or berry them alive nor they throw them to the dogs, and those who are in Hatra doesn’t stone the thieves.” (Bardesan,Book of Laws, Patrologia Syriaca, II, pp. 606-609).