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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
is the name by which the different communities in Syria, Mesopotamia, and Babylonia, who hold to the Monophysite doctrine, have been known since their union, about the. middle of the 6th century. (See EUTYCHIANIS); (See MONOPHYTES). The most prominent party in accomplishing the union of these Monophysites, who, near the middle of the 6th century, were very weak, and threatened with extermination, was Jacob (or James) Albardai, or Baradseus (or Zanzalus), a zealous disciple of Severus, a monk and presbyter of the convent of Phasilta, near Nisibis, and it is after this Jacob that the united Monophysites were named after their union, and not, as some have supposed, after James, the brother of Christ, or Jacob the patriarch, or after Dioscorus, who was called Jacob before his ordination. It is true, however, that these communities are sometimes designated as the Severians, Dioscorians, Eutychians, and even as the Theodosians (for the Egyptian Monophysites, (See COPTS); for the Armenian, (See ARMENIAN CHURCH): and for the Abyssinian, (See ABYSSIAN CHURCH) ).
The surnames of Jacob who united the Monophysites, however, have no bearing on his relation to the sects, but are strictly personal. Thus the coarseness of the dress in which he traveled through the East for the benefit of his party (says D'Herbelot, Bibliothé que Orientale, p. 435) gained him the name of Baradai (i.e. a coarse horse- blanket; compare Assemani, 2, 66, 414; Makrizi, Geschichte der Kopten, edited by Wtistenfeld; Eutychius, Annales, ed. Pococke, 2, 144, 147). Jacob was made bishop of Edessa in 541, and then, says Dr. Schaff (Ch. History, 3:775), "this remarkable man devoted himself for seven and thirty years with unwearied zeal to the interests of the persecuted Monophysites. ‘ Light footed as Asahel' (2 Samuel 2:18), and in the garb of a beggar, he journeyed hither and thither amid the greatest dangers and privations; revived the patriarchate of Antioch; ordained bishops, priests, and deacons; organized churches; healed divisions; and thus saved the Monophysite body from impending extinction." He died in 578.
"The Jacobites have always protested against being considered followers of Eutyches; but, while they profess to anathematize that-heresiarch, they merely reject some minor opinions of his, and hold fast his great distinguishing error of the absorption of the humanity of our Savior in his divine nature. They think that in the incarnation, from two natures there resulted one. In other words, they believe that the Redeemer does not possess two natures, but one composed of two, illustrating their dogma in this way: ‘ Glass is made of sand; but the whole is only glass, no longer sand: thus the divine nature of Christ has absorbed the human, so that the two have become one.'"A middle way between Eutychianism and orthodoxy was chosen by Xenayas (q.v.) and his school, who on the incarnation maintain "the existence in Christ of one nature, composed of the divinity and humanity, but without conversion, confusion, or commixture. He teaches that the Son, one of the Trinity, united himself with a human body and a rational soul in the womb of the Virgin. His body had no being before this union. In this he was born, in it he was nourished, in it he suffered and died. Yet the divine nature of the Son did not suffer or die. Nor was his human nature, or his agency, or death, merely visionary, as the Phantasmists taught, but actual and real. Moreover, the divine nature was not changed or transmuted into the human, or commixed or confused therewith; neither was the human nature converted into the divine, nor commixed or confused with it; but an adunation of the two natures took place, of a mode equivalent to that which, by the union of body and soul, makes a human being; for as the soul and body are united in one human nature, so, from the union of the Godhead and manhood of our Lord Jesus Christ, there has arisen a nature peculiar to itself, not simple, but complex; ‘ one double nature."' Here is evidently maintained a distinction from the Eutychians that the flesh of Christ taken from the Virgin was actual and real, and united with the divine in Christ, "without confusion, change, or division;" and from the orthodox, in holding that, after the union, the two natures united in one, losing their distinctiveness. This view of Xenayas, says Etheridge (Syrian Churches, p. 143), seems to be at present the doctrine of the Jacobites; but, as the laity is very moderately educated, this remark applies only to the clergy. As an indication that they have only an imperfect idea on this point, Etheridge cites their usage of "making the sign of the cross with only the middle finger of their hand, holding the others so as to render them invisible," evincing thereby that the whole subject is to them an unsolved mystery.
Like the Greek Church, the Jacobites, as a rule, deny the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Son, holding, however, to the orthodox doctrine of the personality and deity.
Sacraments. — It is generally believed that the Jacobites, with the Roman Catholics, hold to the septenary number on the sacraments, but Etheridge says (p. 144) that "this must be taken in a qualified sense, as they have no distinct service of confirmation, nor do they use extreme unction, unless it be sometimes imparted to members of the priesthood. Auricular confession, too, is scarcely known among them. And in the Eucharist, while they profess to recognize the real presence, it must not be understood in the Papite sense of transubstantiation, but the presence of the Savior which accompanies, in an undescribed manner, the elements of the bread and wine: a species of consubstantiation, illustrated by Bar Salib (in Matthew 28, Codd. Syr. Clement. Vatic. 16, fol. 29) under the idea of iron in union with fire, and receiving from it the properties of light and heat, while its own nature remains unaltered" (comp. Bar-Hebraeus, Menorath Kudshi, or the "Lamp of the Saints," fundam. 6, sect. 2). At the celebration of the Eucharist they administer newly-made unleavened bread (Rö diger, however, in Herzog, Real- Encyklopadie, 6, 400, asserts that they use leavened bread), corn mixed with salt and oil, and of both kinds, but generally ‘ dipping, like the Nestorians, the cake into the wine. The sacrament of baptism they are said, but very improbably, to have performed by imprinting on the subject (of course infants), with a burning iron, the figure of the cross, on some part of the body, generally the arm, sometimes even the face.
The doctrine of purgatory they wholly ignore, though it is true they follow the Syrian custom in praying for their dead.
Descent. — Their origin they attempt to trace lineally from the first Hebrew Christians. Dr. Wolff (Journal, 1839) says, "They call themselves the Bnay Israel (the children of Israel), whose ancestors were converted by the apostle James;" and continues, that "there cannot be the least doubt that their claim to being the descendants of the Jewish Christians of old is just. Their physiognomy, mode of worship, their attachment to the Mosaic law, their liturgy, their tradition, so similar to the Jewish, the technical terms in their theology, all prove that they are real descendants of Abraham." They certainly followed the Jews at one time in subjecting their male members to circumcision (comp. Saligniac, Itinerancy, 8, c. 1). One thing is peculiarly characteristic of the Jacobites — they practice the adoration of the saints, and particularly worship the mother of Christ. As teachers and saints, they revere some of the most prominent actors in the Church History of the early centuries, particularly Jacob of Sartig, Jacob of Edessa, Dioscorus, Severus, P. Fullo, and Jacob Baradeus; but Eutyches they ignore. (Compare Assemani, Bibl. Orient. 2, diss. de Monophys. § 8 and 10; Renandot, Hist. Patriarch. Alex. p. 133 sq.; id. Liturg. 2, 103).
The Jacobites also impose upon themselves excessive fasts: "five annual lents, during which both the clergy and the laity abstain not only from flesh or eggs, but even from the taste of wine, of oil, and of fish" (Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 4, 551; comp. La Croze, Christianisme de l'Ethiopie, p. 352).
Their clergy are constituted on the model of a perfect hierarchy. "Extremely tenacious of their ecclesiastical status in this particular, they glory in an apostolical succession from St. Peter as the first bishop of Antioch, and exhibit what they hold to be an unbroken series of more than 180 bishops of that see from his day to our own." This assertion they make in the face of the fact that they only started in the 6th century under Jacob, but they certainly ought to enjoy the same privileges with all other churches that lay claim to a direct apostolic succession (q.v.).
By the side of the patriarch, who holds the highest office in the Church, there is a secondary officer at the head of the Eastern Jacobites, the Maphrian (Syriac, מִפְרְיָנָא, i.e. the fructifier), or Primas Orientis, whose mission it is to ordain bishops, and also to consecrate the patriarch elect by the laying on of hands. He occupies, to a certain degree, the same position as the now obsolete Katholikos (Catholic) of the Nestorian Church, and is sometimes designated by that name. He resides at Mosul, and his jurisdiction extends over the Jacobites of the East residing beyond the Tigris and a portion of Mesopotamia; the rest of Mesopotamia, Asia proper, Phoenicia, Palestine, Cilicia, and Armeifia are under the immediate control of the patriarch of Antioch. (On Ordination, see Etheridge, Syr. Chl. p. 147 sq.) With the diocese of the patriarch there comes in contact the patriarchate of the Copts (q.v.), and of late years both churches have sustained a bishop at Jerusalem.
The Jacobites are distinguished for the number of their convents, from which, as is the custom in all the Eastern churches, the higher officers of the Church are all chosen. These institutions are, perhaps for this reason also, under the supervision of the bishops.
At the time of its greatest prosperity the Jacobite Church produced many men remarkable for the profoundness of their views, their teachings, and their writings. No less than 150 archbishops and bishops have been counted in the different ages of the sect, of whom an account is given in the second part of J. G. Assemani's Bibliotheca Orientalis. The most eminent of them are John, bishop of Asia; Thomas of Harkel, who, in the beginning of the 7th century, revised the Philoxenian translation of the N.T.; Jacob of Edessa; the patriarch Dionysius I, in the first half of the 9th century, author of a Syriac chronicle, of which Assemani has made much use, and of which a part has' been published by Tullberg (Upsala, 1850); John, bishop of Dara, in the 9th century; Moses Bar-Kipha (t 913), whose treatise on Paradise was translated into Latin by Andr. Masius; Dionysus Bar-Salibi, bishop of Amid in the 12th century, author of commentaries on the Bible and other theological works (Assemani, 2, 156-211); Jacob, bishop of Tagrit in the 13th century; and especially Gregorius Abulfaragius; Bar- Hebraeus, in the 13th century, who was perhaps the greatest and noblest man of the Eastern Church; his death was mourned alike by Jacobites and Nestorians, by Greeks and Armenians, all of whom forgot the disputes which were agitating at that time the Eastern Church, and gathered at his grave to mingle their tears for the loss of a truly virtuous and great man. The work of Biblical criticism known as Recensio Karkaphensis is also, as shown by Wiseman (Horse Syr. Rome, 1828,8vo, p. 206,212), due to the Jacobite Church.
The present condition of this sect is thus described by the Rev. George Percy Badger (Nestorians and their Rituals, 1, 60) "The present hierarchy of the Jacobites in Turkey consists of a patriarch, who claims the title of ‘ Patriarch of Antioch and successor of St. Peter,' eight metropolitans, and three bishops. Of these, one resides at Mosul, one in the convent of Mar Mattai, in the same district, one at Urfat, one at Diarbekir, or Kharpû t, one at Jerusalem, one at Mardin, three in Jebel Tû r, and two are called Temeloyo, i.e. universal, without any regular dioceses. The bishops generally are illiterate men, but little versed in Scripture, and entirely ignorant of ecclesiastical history. They scarcely ever preach, and their episcopal visitations are confined to occasional ordinations, and to the collection of tithes from their several dioceses. All of them can, of course, read the Syriac of their rituals, but few thoroughly understand it.... As might naturally be expected, the lower orders of the Syrian clergy are generally more illiterate than the bishops; and how can it be otherwise… Such being the awkwardness and inefficiency of their clergy, it is not to be wondered at that religious knowledge and vital godliness are at a very low ebb among the Syrian laity. Not-withstanding the comparative affluence of this community, I believe that there do not exist among them more than twenty small schools in the whole of Turkey, where their population amounts to something like 100,000 (Etheridge says 150,000). The following is a rough estimate, in villages of the proportion of their numbers in the different districts:
(1) Jebel Tû r, 150 villages; (2) district of Urfah and Gawar, 50 villages; (3) Kharpû t, 15 villages; (4) Diarbekir, 6 villages; (5) Mosul, 5 villages; (6) Damascus, 4 villages, making in all 230 villages now inhabited by Syrians."
(Comp. Richard Pococke, Travels in the East, II, 1, 208; Niebuhr. Reisebeschreib. vol. 2; Buckingham, Trav. in Mesopotamia, 1, 321,341; Robinson, Palestine, 3:460 sq.)
As early as the 14th century the Roman Catholic Church used her influence to effect a union of the Jacobite and Western churches under the sway of Rome. But, although many accessions have been obtained from the Jacobites, they have not yielded entire, as did the Copts in the 15th century. The first really important success the Romanists achieved in the 17th century, under Andreas Achigian, when the converts, at that time quite numerous, styling themselves "Syrian Catholics," elected him as a rival patriarch. He was followed by Petrus (Ignatius, vol. 25), who did not continue long in office, as the opposition party proved too strong for Rome (Assemani, 2, 482). This, however, by no means discouraged the Papists, for the undertaking was resumed shortly afterwards; and they have for some time past sustained in Syria a patriarch who resides at Haleb, and they have even "Catholic Jacobite convents." The inferiority of the Syrian Catholics to the Jacobites has induced the Protestants of England and America to establish missions among them, and they have thus far met with tolerable success. See Assemani. Bibl. Or. 2; Diss. de Monophys. § 1-10; Neale, East. Church, 3 (see Index); Abudachus, Hisi. Jacobitarum (Oxf. 1700); Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Rom. Emp. (Harper's ed.), 4, 551 sq.; Migne, Dict. des Ordres religieux, 2, 561; Wetzer mid Welte, Kirchen-Lex. s.v.; Herzog, Real-Encylopadie, 6:400 sq. (J. H. W.)
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Jacobites'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​j/jacobites.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.