Posted by on Nov 6, 2015 in Library | Comments Off on SYRIAN NESTORIANISM IN JAPAN

Love does not work evil to his neighbor because love is the fulfillment of the law.
-Romans XIII, 10 (Aramaic)
It is easier for a rope (gamla) to go through the eye of a needle, than a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
– St. Matthew XIX, 24 (Aramaic)
People will often take the Syrian, for the Greek Nestorians, but the former is one thing, the latter is another, you must discriminate between them. The so-called “Syrian Nestorians” believe in the salvation only by faith, and being, none other than the members of the Holy Catholic Church of the East which was established in the early part of the first century and which adopted the Peshitta, the original Scriptures in Aramaic, at the beginning of the following century, they had nothing to do with the Conference of Nicaea in 325 A.D. which recognized the Trinity nor with the Conference of Ephesus in 431 which stated the doctrine of the Monophysitism and in consequence of which Nestorius, Patriach of Constantinople, was deposed from his post on account of heresy, i. e., his ignoring the Trinity and insisting on the Nestorians have been Trinitarians since before the above Conference of Ephesus, yet they were called “Nestorians” by their foes soon after the dismissal of Nestorius, as they were Dyophysites like the Greek Nestorians, the followers of Nestorius. This is the very reason why people not infrequently would and will confuse the Syrian, with the Greek Nestorians. In the following article “Nestorian” and “Nestorianism” are used as substitutes for “Syrian Nestorian” and “Syrian Nestorianism” only for the sake of convenience.
The Hatas were a Nestorian tribe who lived originally under Persian domination in Khotan (now in Eastern Turkestan) but migrated to Japan via China and Korea in search of religious freedom. They landed at Sakoshi (near the present city of Himeji in Kyogo prefecture) some 1500 years ago and there erected the first Christian churches long before St. Francis Xavier arrived here in 1549. Later they moved to Uzumasa (now Kyoto City) where they erected many other churches. Although they were persecuted by Buddhists in both China and Korea they were granted full freedom in all but name from the time of their arrival in this country down to the days of the Empress Suiko.
Under Shotoku, Prince Regent under the Empress Suiko in the seventh century, the Hatas were happy indeed since the wise Prince Regent, though himself a Buddhist, granted them full liberty under the provisions of his famous Seventeen-Article Constitution. Well might be noted English scholar, Professor Lewis Bush, then a high official of the Occupation Forces, declared in 1947 that “Shotoku Taishi was essentially a democrat: …Indeed, had it not been for the complete indifference of the Japanese to this great man, the world would know more about him today.”
In the days of this great Prince Regent the Nestorian church grounds at Uzumasa had their own “Well of Israel” attached to David’s Shrine, and on the well-spring stood a Sacred Tripod symbolizing the Trinity (cf. Rev. XXI,22,XXII 1,2) from which a limpid stream flowed. Visitors to Uzumasa can still see a tripod, built in the style of a triangular torii, which marks the exact spot where the original tripod of the Nestorians once stood. These various Nestorian sites have been identified only recently by the writer of this article with the aid of archaeology, philology, and the science of folklore. The writer admits, however, that this would have been impossible without the suggestions and hypothesis advanced by the English author, Mrs. E. A. Gordon in her several published works. A study of some historical sources has convinced me that it was a Nestorian, Raca, who directed the first orphan asylum ever established in Japan.
Nestorianism in the days of the Empress Suiko exerted not a little influence on the culture of Japan. It is true that Shotoku may be regarded quite justly as the founder of social work in Japan. It was he who established the Shitennoji Buddhist Temple in Osaka which comprised four separate charitable institutions including the Kyoden-in or a sanctuary of religion, learning and music: The Ryobyo-in or charitable hospital, the Seyaku-in or a charitable dispensary, and the Hiden-in or an asylum for the helpless. To him goes the credit for having been the first to carry on social work on a large scale in Japan, but I believe that it cannot be denied that this work was modeled on the charitable work of the Nestorian church at Uzumasa. This name, incidentally, is, I believe, a variant of the Aramaic,” Ishoo M’shikha,” meaning Jesus Christ.
Although the Nestorian Christians in Japan went over completely to Conventional Taoism at one time after Prince Shotoku’s death, the Emperor Shomu and his consort, the Empress Komyo, gave the audience to a Nestorian missionary who came to Japan in 736 and was identified by Mrs. Gordon with the Rev. Milis, Bactrian physician. The emperor had a leper asylum built in the suburbs of Nara which was then the capital, and the empress worked there as a volunteer nurse. People must have been amazed to see how this young belle in the purple went so far as to suck the lepers’ wounds as pious Christians were wont to do in the Middle Ages in Europe. The historicity of this story is, I believe, confirmed by the various data which have made it possible to identify the site of the lazaretto and it would appear that the Emperor and his beautiful consort took their inspiration for this work from the Nestorianism preached by the Bactrian missionary.
While it is quite true that Chinese literature and Indian Buddhism conspired to make a cultural nation of the Japanese people before the Meiji Restoration. Indeed, Nestorianism from the Near East contributed much towards Japanese civilization even long before the introduction of Roman Catholicism some 400 years ago.
In conclusion I must render grateful acknowledgement to those prominent personages who were so kind as to encourage my studies. Among these are the Rev. Egli, Director of the St. Thomas Institute in Kyoto, the Rev. Kosho Otani, Abbot of the Nishi-Hongaoji Temple, His Holiness Mar Shimun of the Patriarchate of the East in Chicago, Illinois, and Prof. Yukitoki Takikawa, ex-Dean of the Law Faculty of Kyoto University, Japan’s famous champion of Liberalism. I owe grateful acknowledgement also to those who so graciously visited the sites I discovered. Among these I wish especially to mention the Rev. G. Beckman, American missionary of the Church in Kyoto, the Rev. H. H. Eggen of the Norwegian Lutheran Church, Godalsveien 2, Stavanger, Norway, and Mr J. W. Schoonen, principal of Kobe Education Center, Troop Information and Education Section, Kobe Base