“Syria is the Glory of Christianity”
Part I: The significance of Syria in Bible history and civilization
First – Syria in the Bible:
The Greater and Minor Syria were mentioned approximately 300 times in the Bible
In the Gospel of (Luke 2:1-2) we read: “In those days, Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. This was the first census that took place when Cyrenius was governor of Syria, this is exactly the time when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Here we should mention the time of the birth of Jesus has pided history into before and after his birth (BC and AD).
Damascus is mentioned about 60 times in the Bible and Antioch 20 times; When in this holy spot of the, Kingdom World, God has chosen prophets in the Old Testament, and Apostles in the New Testament. We must continue to remember Jerusalem and Damascus are the ancient centers of Bible history.
In this Holy spot of the world God, the Almighty has chosen this area which has become the cradle of the prophets and Apostles who spread the word of God to the world. His prophets reveal His love in the Old Testament, and so our Lord Jesus Christ has chosen his 12 disciples to follow Him who became the apostle to spread the Gospel. There are many villages, towns and cities that still exist and carry the same names at the time of Christ, like, Damascus , Hamah, Ezra, Der’a Ethra’e, Magdal, the town of Mary Magdaline as some people think. Ethra’e (Der’a today) was the area, as some say, where Job lived close to his three wise friends. Still many cities and towns in Palestine are still called the same at the time of Christ. We may consider Jerusalem as the center of the World in Bible prophecies.
The most glorious gift to mankind is the Holy Bible, the word of God, the prophets were inspired by the spirit of God to say and write “So Says the Lord” (2Tim3:16). Further, Jesus Christ is the living word (JN1:1) and Jesus is the revelation of God to mankind (Hebrew1:1)
In addition, the Ten Commandments were given on Mount Horeb (Sinas); Isaiah, the prophet, prophesied his coming by saying his name “For to us a child is born, and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace”.( Isaiah 9:6) Furthermore, we read the fulfillment in (Math 1:23): “ The Angels said to Behold a Virgin shall be with child and shall bring forth a son and they shall call his name Emmanuel which being interpreted is “God with Us”.”
His birth was in miracles, and He made miracles, according to the Gospel (Math 4:24). “News about him spread all over Syria and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering pain, demon possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them” (Math 9:35). We also read that the Lord Jesus and the crowd went up to the Mount (Hermon in Syria) and took it as his platform and gave this greatest sermon in the world called: the “Sermon on the Mount” According to (Matthew ch. 5-7) “Sermon on the Mount” and still is considered the principles of the Kingdom of Christ to his followers. This sermon has changed the systems, concepts moral standards and constitutions of the entire world; Basic teachings of the pine Christ it is realistic by the grace of God based on love. It is considered by all leaders of the world in history, such as, Gandhi, Napoleon and many others in history.
Then we see the Lord Jesus takes with him three disciples. They were: (Peter, James and John) to Mount Hermon in the great event of The Transfiguration, as we read in (Luke 9:33); God the Father appeared in the clouds and spoke to his son Jesus Christ in glorious splendor He said: “This is my son, whom I have chosen, listen to him”. There appeared also, the two prophets, Moses and Elijah, the glory of God was like the sun which made the disciples to fall on their faces and worship. Why don’t we kneel down to him and do the same?
What a marvelous pine privilege for you, Syria to have Jesus Christ walk on your land, preach, teach and do miracles of healing (Math 4:24) We read also in (Math 9:35) “ when Jesus saw the multitudes He was moved with compassion because He saw them as sheep without a Shepherd.” We only pray that the fighting Syrian people today would look to Jesus today to visit Syria, heal their land, stop the terrible civil war and save their Souls!
Second: Syria, and the Apostle Paul
(From a terrorist to a great Apostle of God), this was the title of the film which the Syrian government has allowed to be seen in public with collaboration from all Syrian communities. It is really a good sign the government on the part of the Syrian government, and citizens to its people and all alike and everyone was appreciative and grateful and no one was against this.
Additionally, the another beautiful gesture is the government issued official permit to build a memorial and a historic shrine and a statue to the Apostle Paul showing all the aspects of his life written on it some of his words from the Bible. You, the apostle Paul deserve all the glory of God and all of the earthy appreciation for spreading the Gospel in Syria the world and his inspired epistles by God!!! This shrine is located between the town of Heena and Damascus. This is the place when Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus. In the church building, where we sat down with our guide, Mr. Michael Shahen Baba and his kind wife, it was a glorious experience to sit down in the church to meditate, pray and thank God for the apostle Paul!!
Syria, the Epicenter of the Gospel Missions.
Antioch was the capital of the Romans in the Middle East and occupies first place in terms of engineering art and the magnificent beauty of the buildings, parks and streets, making it a place of pilgrimage for tourists. More than that, it has become worldly known for the spreading “the Gospel which is the power of God for salvation.” Congratulations to you, Syria, remember that most of your people have become Christian followers of Christ, and hundreds of great churches were built with a civilization that surpasses the Roman & Greek civilizations because it is the civilization of love and peace. Why, because it is a spiritual civilization of the Holy Gospel of peace and love through Jesus Christ our Lord. It is eternal!!
Distinctive features of Antioch in Syria:
- It has become a great Christian center.
- “The Disciples were called Christians first in Antioch “ (Acts 11:26)
- It was the center of higher education (theological schools) which was spread all over?
- Great men emerged from Antioch, who accompanied the Apostle Paul in his travels
- Some fathers of the early church such as John the theologian known as the golden mouth came from it
Antioch was in the starting center for the Apostle Paul, Barnabas, and Luke, Mark and others who preached the world despite the difficulties, persecutions and martyrdom, but the blood of the martyrs became seeds of the church. And do not forget that the increased heresies were as Arios/Nastorian heresy and several others.
This is a reminder again to Syria that the Holy Gospel, spread to the whole world from Jerusalem and Antioch. It is our prayer that Syria will hear anew and accept the message of the gospel of Love and Peace.
Syria and the Fathers of the Church
The Fathers of the Church were a group of God’s choice, mature believers who had great talents and were gifted in preaching and evangelizing without fear. They were gifted in theology and in the defense of faith against the heresies such as the “Aryanism/Nestorianism” and many others of which was widely spread in the early centuries. The Forefathers are pided into three sections:
- Those who lived during the Apostles’ time such as Paul, Barnabas and John and others in the first century
- Those who lived before the council of Nicea
- Those who lived during and after the council of Nicea. The ones who attended the council of Nicea were mostly from Greater Syria, the Gulf, Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, Asia Minor, Europe and other parts of the world. Also Constantine, the emperor, had attended, whom God used. His mother Helena deserves the credit by leading him to the faith in Christ. The “Church of the Resurrection” was built in Jerusalem and called by her name. Constantine, the Emperor was the one who officially introduced Christianity to be the official religion of the Roman Empire.
Let’s not forget that God used, previously, Emperor” Philip the Arab”, from Syria, who was converted with his son and were baptized by Oregon,( the famous theologian) in Bosra-Sham, some say it was the town of Shaba, and whose help in the return of exiled Christians from Arabia was very much appreciated. They were exiled by his previous pagan emperor. Emperor Phillip the Arab (he reigned from 244-249 AD)was killed with his son by his pagan General and took his place. The council of Nicea concluded, at the end, by giving us “The Apostles Creed which was and still a rock against the heresies and the philosophies contrary to the true teachings of the Gospel. Here is the literal Nicene Creed.
We should not forget the Apostle Creed 180 AD which was nearly the same as the Nicene Creed. We also must not forget that those “fathers” were of great help and great examples of faith. Some of them were killed, tortured in a painful way, crucified and burned, lived in rugged caves as mentioned in (Hebrews 11), but as has been said that the blood of the martyrs became the seed of the Church.
Part II: the significance of Syria in the world history
“Syria is the cradle of civilizations:”
There is no good library in the world today without books and volumes on the history of ancient Syria.
The most known historians acknowledged that Syria is the cradle of civilization not less than thirty civilizations emerged from or through Syria. All were mentioned in the Bible, in particular the Semitic people.
This is due to God’s provision and choice first and its unique, strategic geographic location. The major civilizations that appeared were the Semitic civilization and from them descended the Sumerians, Acadians Canaanites, Phoenicians, Assyrians, Hittites, Arameans, Chaldeans, the Nabataeans, Chassasinites- and all Arabs are considered Semitic people. Moreover, the Greeks and Romans were very much advanced by the factor of their own development of civilization and power. They (Greeks and Romans) are not Semitic as Europe is the descendant of Japheth as South Africa is from Ham. If we compare our modern civilization today with our modern technology in comparison, our world seems a small country, that is to say they can see, hear and speak to each other as they are neighbors!!
As prophesied by the prophet Daniel “in the last days knowledge increases.” (Dan 12:4) Our most advanced modern civilization which has some good. May God protect us from its frightening evil, to the whole World! We are now “in the last days” as the Bible tells us as we read about the prophecies of Christ according in the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 24 and other prophecies. One was of the Prophet Isaiah who predicted “And he shall judge among the nations and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks”: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Is. 32:17,18). If only those who carry weapons now have to learn that they are agents of Satan. Because our God is a God of Live ,Love and Peace (Math 10:10)
Syria, the cradle of the family of Semitic languages:
We mentioned above, that Syria is the cradle of Semitic people; therefore they must have had their own Semitic languages. These languages were of the Canaanites and Phoenicians beginning from 2000 BC. The earliest date for us was 1400 BC during the Aramaic period. Their influence lasted for a long time until 600 A.D. The Aramaic language was spread throughout the Middle East especially at the time of Jesus Christ. (Jesus spoke Aramaic and some portions of the Old Testament were written in the Aramaic language). In the northern part of Syria and part of Iraq, the people spoke authentic Aramaic which has become the mother of all Semitic languages in all the Middle East.
(Civilizations are developed gradually and so languages as well. Thus we find that the Aramaic language is really the mother of all languages or the Semitic dialects and from it the following branches emerged,
- Aramaic, Arabic in northern Syria, and the Euphrates. The classical Arabic is most related to Syria.
- Arabic Aramaic in Arabia with a Badawiah – dialect
- Arabic Aramaic in Ethiopia and the dialect is a Swahili dialect
- Aramaic Assyrian and Chaldean in Iraq
- Aramaic and Syrian dialect in Maaloula –Damascus and still spoken to this day
- Aramaic Nabateans, in Jordan and Yemen. The Ghassasinites came to Syria from Yemen, established their kingdom and they, in turn, improved much of the Arabic Nabateans and continued to be classical as we see it today. We must not forget that the Hebrew and Arabic came from the same root of the Aramaic. They have similarities in grammar and vocabulary. This proves that Greater Syria was actually “The cradle of family Semitic languages of all the Middle East.
Syria as the World Archaeology Museum:
Ruins! Ruins!!! And excavations, you see them everywhere you go in villages, towns and cities in Syria. There is no end to it.
Today as it was yesterday, this is Syria, a world museum and a magnet for tourists and visitors, although the Museums of the West are full of the ruins of Greater Syria or (Fertile Crescent), I saw first- hand wings and full floors that occupy much space in the museums of France, Spain, England and Germany under the name of (ruins of Syria) or say, the Middle East. As we know, Greater Syria has an open book
to the civilizations of world history in the East and West. The excavators have transferred a large number of antiquities that they discovered in Syria to museums of the West, especially in the days of (colonialism), whether from Palestine or Syria or Lebanon or Jordan, Iraq. Here we find that thousands of prospectors/ archaeologists are spending a lot of money, in this way, driven by the spirit of curiosity, science and religion to discover the history of our ancestors, ancient civilizations, and their relics. This also proves the validity and sincerity of the Living Word of God, as an example, the manuscripts Imran, discovered in Jordan, acknowledged the authenticity of the Book of Isaiah as we read it today. God is eternal, so is his word!
Now come with me to Lattakia, one of the oldest and greatest places to explore the ancient ruins which take us back to the thousands of generations. Ugarit is the birthplace of the first alphabet in the world located about 15 miles from Lattakia. It was in Ugarit where the alphabetic script was first used successfully by the Phoenicians marking a great leap in the progress of human civilization. It is the name of an ancient city on the North Syrian coast opposite the island of Cyprus, 40 miles SW of Antioch; also called Ras Shamra. The city, with its port, Mina el Beida (White Harbor), was an important commercial center through which passed the trade of Syria and Mesopotamia with Egypt, Cyprus, and the Aegean area. Occasionally antiquities had been found here by local people, but in 1928 a peasant struck the roof of a buried tomb with his plow and made a discovery which attracted the attention of the authorities to come… The French authorities were in charge of Syria at the time. In 1929 archeologists from France’s famous Claude F. A. Schaefer began a series of excavations which have revealed much of the history of the site. The excavations continued until 1939 resulting in the discovery of many objects of great archeological value, including hundreds of Tablets known as “The Ras Shamra Tablets”. The French have continued digging at Ras Shamra until today, although with more involvement from the Syrians in recent years.. The excavations have revealed an extensive Late Bronze Age city (14th-13th centuries B.C) with a trace of temples and houses , most of which have revealed troves of texts. One of these famous discoveries, which provided hundreds of manuscripts on stones and some pictures and statues that after study and translation, gives us a wealth of rich information.
Come with me to the city of Aleppo, and in this city the second-greatest discovery was found, namely, (Ebla), which is located near the city of Aleppo to the West and likewise revealed the Semitic peoples like Chaldeans, Assyrian, Hittite and many more.
Then back again to Lattakia, where discoveries were discovered here with the utmost importance namely” Kingdom Marie”which dates back to the era of Abraham who passed through Damascus, and called his agent ( Eleizer of Damascus) ( Genesis 15:2). In Damascus, we find hundreds of ruins that tell about the events of the New Testament the Apostles such as the story of Paul.
In addition, the ruins of the hundreds of churches in Damascus and throughout Syria, not to mention the living centers such as “Dair Saidanaya & Maaloula” where the nuns and monks still speak the living Aramaic Assyrians dialect today.
Come with me to the ancient and historic ruins of Tadmor which is considered the capital andbride of the desert during the reign of Queen Zenobia. In Tadmor, you will find streets of Roman columns, tombs with signs of the cross, churches and priests engravings on the stones.
Now come with me to Bosra Sham, a Romanian Center contains the largest Roman Amphitheatre in Syria.
Bosra Sham is also considered a historic and religious center, where the largest cathedral was built there in its time a small miniature church of Sofia, in Istanbul in the fourth century. The Cathedral later disintegrated by Muslims after the 6th century.
The traditional church history tells us that when the apostle Matthew had visited it and so the two disciples of the sovereign who were sent by Jesus to preach, and also one of the deacons of Jerusalem had served in it. In Bosra remember also, Emperor Philip the Arab and his son, were both converted and baptized by the gifted theologian Oregon. Bosra remained the Capital of Al-Ghassasinites for centuries until the conquest of Islam. At this very time we remember ” Raheb Bouhayra” (the Heretic Monk) who was teaching the heresy of Arius and Nestorius which denied the deity of Christ. This heresy was refuted by the Nicene Creed. Raheb Bouhayra taught this very heresy to “Prophet Mohammad” which many historians and people believe that this heresy has become the mother of the Islamic religion.
It is possible that Paul the apostle went through it on his way to Arabia since it is a gateway between Damascus, Tadmor, Arabia and Iraq. It was also an important commercial center for exchanging goods and products. “I went immediately to Arabia and later returned to Damascus”. (Galations 1:17) So Bosra Sham was the capital of the Ghassasinite Kingdom at time of the Byzantine Empire.
From the Bani Ghassan tribe (the Ghassasinites) descended many Christian families in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.
In conclusion, this is just a brief glimpse and handful of information about the Significance of Syria in the Bible and world history. It is again to give a manual to educate the readers to study further and to be more knowledgeable and thankful to God for what He has done in and through Syria to the World!! Moreover, remember to pray for God to save Syria from this agony of civil war!