ARMENIA: RELIGIOUS HISTORY

 


from
:  Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, Edited by James Hastings, Charles Scribner's Sons, Volume I, 1961.

 

 

            "ARMENIA (Zoroastrian).—The sources of our information for the earlier epoch of Armenia's religious history are the Urartic or Vannic inscriptions (see preceding art.).  For the Indo-Germanic period down to Christian times the most important native sources are Agathangelos (5th cent., ed. Venice, 1862), Moses of Chorene's History and Geography of Armenia (5th cent., ed. Venice, 1865), Faustus of Byzantium (5th cent., ed. Venice, 1889), Eznik (5th cent., ed. Venice, 1826), Anania Shiragaci, (7th cent., ed. Patkanean, St. Petersburg, 1877), and (for names) the ancient Armenian version of the OT.  We also gather short but valuable notices from Xenophon's Anabasis, Strabo's Geography, and the works of Dio Cassius, Pliny, and Tacitus.  Considerable as the material is, it is but incidental to the main purpose of these ancient authors, and is, therefore, very fragmentary.  We may, however, hope for important additions to our knowledge of Zoroastrianism in early Armenia from the critical study of Armenian folk-lore and popular superstitions, when enough shall have been collected for the purpose.

            Originally there was nothing in common between the Iranian races and the ancient inhabitants of Armenia, who were probably connected with the Hittites in the West and the Caucasic races of the North…."  [794].

 

 

"….The study here presented must not be regarded as a complete picture of Armenian paganism.  Both the pantheon and the world of minor spirits contained other non-Zoroastrian names and beliefs which have been omitted; but the old religion of Armenia was mainly Iranian, and may be described as Zoroastrianism of a corrupt type.

 

            It is probable that the ancient Armenians themselves conceived their pantheon as containing the following deities: Aramazd, as chief god; Anahit, as chief and favourite goddess; Vahagn, as the national god of war and heroism; the sun and the moon; Mihr; and Tir as the god of human destiny, whose relation to learning and eloquence has a Greek flavour.  Deities of a lower magnitude of importance disappeared more easily from the popular

 

 

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memory.  Along with these Persian deities, there were also an Elamitic goddess Nanē (the Babylonian Nanậ, cf. also the 'Persian' goddess Nanaea of 2 Mac I13), the Syrian Ast[Greek letter lamda (l)]ik (Venus), and the Syrian Barsham (Ba'al-Shemin).  These three must have migrated into Armenia during post-Alexandrian times, perhaps Doppelgänger [doubles] of some of the native deities, though whether they formed a group, Barsham-Ast[Greek letter lamda (l)]ik-Nanē, corresponding to Aramazd-Anahit-Vahagn, as Jensen (Hittiter und Armenier, p. 181 ff.) suggests, is a less plausible hypothesis.  At all events they soon asserted themselves as independent and separate deities, so that Ast[Greek letter lamda (l)]ik could become the paramour of Vahagn and have a temple in the sacred town of Yashtishat, where Anahit also had a sanctuary.  After Alexander, and especially in Roman times, the Armenians came under strongly Hellenistic influences, and began to seek parallels between the Greek and their own deities.  It would also seem that during this period the worship of the sun and the moon became somewhat neglected.  Otherwise, we cannot understand why Agathangelos [probable fictional name.  Percent validity of history?  Book written in 460 ("Armeniapedia" (online) (The Armenian Encyclopedia))] makes so little of them.  The ancient Armenians were also very much given to divination and witchcraft (Moses of Chorene, 1. 30, ii. 66; Ohan Mantaguni, op. cit. xxvi.; Alishan, op. cit. pp. 360-409)."  [802].

 

"M.H. Ananikian."  [802].

 

 

            "ARMENIA (Christian).  THE BEGINNINGS OF CHRISTIANITY.—The national legends and traditions of Armenia are rich in information regarding the introduction of Christianity into the country.  In particular, it is said to have been preached by Apostles or disciples of Apostles, such as St. Bartholomew and St. Thaddaeus.  But it has been proved that these legends did not appear till late in the literature of Armenia, and that they were borrowed largely from the literature of Greece."  [802-803].

 

"Frédéric Macler."  [807].

 

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from:  Encyclopedia of Religion, Second Edition, Lindsay Jones, Editor in Chief, Thomson Gale, 2005 (1987).

 

 

'ARMENIAN CHURCH.  According to legend, the apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew were the original evangelizers of Armenia.  Reliable historical data indicate that there were bishops in western Armenia during the third century, principally in Ashtishat in the province of Taron.  Eusebius of Caesarea [c. 260 – c. 340] mentions "brethren in Armenia of whom Merozanes was the bishop"; Dionysius of Alexandria wrote a letter on repentance to Merozanes in 251.  There are scattered stories of Armenian martyrs during the third century, but records are meager and mostly questionable.

 

HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE CHURCH IN ARMENIA.  The cultural contacts of the Armenians with the Greeks in the west and the Syrians in the south and the missionary outreach of important Christian centers in Caesarea and Edessa facilitated the introduction of the Christian religion into Armenia, which was a kingdom under Roman protectorate.  Following the Edict of Toleration [? (see pages 4–6)] issued in 313 by Emperor Constantine [Roman Emperor 306 (312) – 337 (280? – 337)] at Milan[see pages 4–6], the king of Armenia, Tiridates III (298–330), and his courtiers were converted and baptized by Gregory the Illuminator [c. 257 – c. 337], the apostle of Armenia.  

 

Armenia became in 314 [NOTE: THIS CONFLICTS WITH THE "301" AND "2001" DATES ON THE (MY) POSTAL ITEMS (EXCEPTING THE VATICAN CITY ENVELOPE AND STAMPS, WHICH DIPLOMATICALLY, AND ERRONEOUSLY (following this source), HAVE: "1700° ANNIVERSARIO DEL BATTESIMO DELLA NAZIONE ARMENA" [1700th ANNIVERSARY OF THE BAPTISM OF THE ARMENIAN NATION])] the first nation with Christianity as its established state religion.

 

            Following the king's baptism, Gregory traveled to Caesarea (Cappadocia) in the fall of 314 and was consecrated by Metropolitan Leontius [Leontius, the metropolitan of Caesarea, died 337] as the first catholicos, or chief bishop, of the Armenian church.  Gregory's consecration marked the farthest extension of the Christian church in northeast Asia Minor from its base in Caesarea, where Gregory himself had been raised and educated.  The formal conversion of Armenia reinforced its political and cultural ties with the Roman world.'  [487-488].

 

 

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"BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

The one outstanding and comprehensive history of the Armenian church is by Mal'achia Ormanian, Azgapatown (History of the nation), 3 vols. (1912-1927; reprint, Beirut, 1959–1961), which uses primary sources extensively.  A similar but older work is that by Michael Chamchean, Patmut' iwn Hayots, 3 vols. (Venice, 1784–1786).  An abridged edition has been translated into English by Johannes Audell as History of America, 2 vols. (Calcutta, 1827).  There are also three smaller histories of the Armenian church titled Patmut 'iwn hay ekeghets' woy:  those by Melchisedek Muratean (Jerusalem, 1872), Abraham Zaminean (Nor Nakhijevan, 1908), and Kevork Mesrop (Istanbul, 1913–1914).  Other studies in Armenian church history are either topical or periodic.  However, ecclesiastical material is often incorporated into secular histories.  Important among these are Jacques de Morgan's Histoire du people arménien:  Depuis les temps les plus reculés de ses annales jusqu'à nos jours (Paris, 1919), translated by Ernest F. Barry as The History of the Armenian People:  From the Remotest Times to the Present Day (Boston, 1965); François Tournebize's Histoire politique et religieuse de l'Arménien des origins à 1071 (Paris, 1947).

 

Tiran Nersoyan (1987)"  [490].

 

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Excursus:  from:  Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Second Edition edited by F.L. Cross and E.A. Livingstone, Oxford, 1974.

 

 

"MILAN, Edict of.  Early in 313 the Emps. *Constantine [Roman Emperor (306 (312) – 337 (280? – 337)] and Licinius [Eastern Roman Emperor 308 – 324 (c. 250 – 325)] met at Milan and agreed to recognize the legal personality of the Christian Churches and to tolerate all religions equally.  Their policy marked the triumph of Christianity over *persecution, but did not 'establish' the Church.  The document commonly known as the 'Edict of Milan' (it is not an edict and was not issued at Milan) is to be found in divergent forms in *Lactantius (De Mortibus Persecutorum, xlviii) and *Eusebius (Hist. Eccl., x. 5).

 

 

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            O. Seeck, "Das sogenannte Edikt von Mailand' in Z.K.T., xii (1891), pp. 381–6; H. Nesselhauf, 'Das Toleranzgesetz des Licinius' in Hist. J., lxxiv for 1954 (1955), pp. 44–61.  N.H. Baynes, Constantine the Great and the Christian Church (Raleigh Lecture for 1929; 1930), pp. 69–74 (full and valuable bibl.)."  [915].

 

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Excursus:  from:  The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Third edition edited by E.A. Livingstone, Oxford, 1997.

 

"Milan, Edict of.  The document so called is in fact a circular of 313 to provincial governors issued in Bithynia by the Emp. Licinius. In accordance with an agreement made with *Constantine at Milan, he extended to the E. provinces freedom of worship for all, including Christians, and the restitution of possessions lost by the Churches since the persecution of 303, concessions previously made in the W. by Constantine and Maxentius [Western Roman Emperor 306 – 312 (c. 278 – 312)]. It is preserved in divergent forms by *Lactantius (De Mortibus Persecutorum, 48) and *Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. 10. 5). See also PERSECUTIONS, EARLY CHRISTIAN.

 

            Comm. by J. Moreau in his edn. of Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum (SC 39), 2 (1955), pp. 456–64.  N.H. Baynes, Constantine the Great and the Christian Church (Raleigh Lecture for 1929; 1930), pp. 69–74 (full and valuable bibl.)."  [1086].

 

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Excursus:  from:  Raleigh Lecture on History, Constantine the Great and the Christian Church, By Norman H. Baynes, Read March 12, 1930.

 

            "In February 313 Licinius met Constantine at Milan, and there married Constantine's sister.41  At this meeting a policy of complete religious freedom was agreed upon; the corporation of the Christian

 

 

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Church—or rather, perhaps, of each separate Christian Church—was recognized as a legal person; the text was doubtless settled of a rescript which would be put into force by Licinius on his return to the East.  It is that text which is generally known as the Edict of Milan.  Seeck [Otto Seeck 1850 – 1921] has shown that we cannot prove that there ever was an Edict published at Milan; it is indeed unlikely that any such edict was issued, but this is so because in all probability [that phrase, though fashionable, is a mistake] Constantine had anticipated the agreement in policy reached at Milan in rescripts similar to that directed to Anullinus [proconsul of Africa], which had been sent to all the governors of the Western provinces.  The Edict of Milan may be a fiction, but the fact for which the term stood remains untouched.42  Licinius left Milan to carry to the Christians of the East the message of toleration, recognition, and restitution framed by the senior Augustus [Constantine].  He was met by the revolt of his Caesar Maximin [Maximinus, Gaius Galerius Valerius, Roman Emperor 308 – 313 (c. 270 – 313)]; after Maximin's defeat and death the mastery of the Roman world was shared between Licinius and Constantine."  [9].

 

 

            "I should agree with Seeck that there never was an Edict of Milan:  Constantine had previously to that meeting in  letters to his officials anticipated the protocol of Milan which was itself composed on the basis of those letters."  [72].

 

 

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