First five century period of South India is identified by literary documentation in Chentamil/Tamil . Most of the literary work gives some kind of information about the social and political life of this period. If one want to understand the religious aspect of this period, one certainly needs to understand the socio –political aspect of this period. Many of the literary work related with this period hardly deals any thing with Thomasian Christianity. Some scholars studied literary work like Akananooru (168AD) in detail to understand any reference exist related with Malankara Nazrani. There is some indications in that direction; but one need to do a lot more to put it as history.
Before going in to details we need to understand the origin of priest hood in Christianity. It seems originated when Yesu told his apostles to go and convey the gospel to the world. Initial stages of priest hood can be traced in Acts of Apostles. The permission or the ordination given by Yesu to his apostles can be called –Kahnoosa (suriyani). Those who received Kahnoosa were able to perform all duties of priest hood in early Christendom. Later people were appointed to help Kahnoosas called Shemshono (shemmashan). Shemmashans are not given Kahnoosa. They were appointed to help these kahnoosos in their duties.
One who has the Kahnoosa has two duties to perform. (1) Reform (Kadshono) (2) Enlighten (nahrono). Nahrono ask the priest to enlighten the followers with explaining the Evangalion (kriothe du rooho kadisho) and Kadshono ask them to participate/lead/distribute the benefit of Yesu’s crucifixion and purify the holy sacrament (to perform the Koodasha). It is also noted that when a Kahnooso get his ordination the Urara (Sthanavasthran) is spread to two sides while the person on his both knees .In case of Shimshono, he gets his Urara in one side while he is on his one knees (later day practice).
In the early stage of Christendom, there were only Kahnoosa and Shimshono position available. This is practice same for all churches. When population of members increased Kahnosa post were also increased. Naturally there was a need of some one to look after these Kahnoosas. This position was called Episcopa in Greek. In Suriyani the position were called Reesh kohane. The meaning of the Greek word is overseer and in suriyani meant Chief priest .Early church used these both terms without any difference. The position of” Kahnoosa “is same as “Presbyter” in Greek. This Kahnoosa position is divided in to Presbyters and Episcopes in Greek. ST. Paul many times addresses these Presbyters as Episcopas though the duties of these posts are equivalent but the powers related with church administration are different.
The word Kassisa is taken from the OT background and used in church. The meaning of Kassisa (elder) is Moopan. The word Presbyter and Kassisa are one or the same thing. ST.Paul called Thimothios as Moopan or Elder in 1st Thimothios 4:14 and 5:22 that is Kassisa. He deals with the aspect of ordination as Kassisa. This means the Thimothios as Kassisa has the power to ordain Kasissas. ST.Paul advice him not to neglect the gift that is given to him and not to lay hands on any one hastily .Again we could see in acts of apostles 20:17 ST.Paul call his Kassisas and give his parting advice. This is also an example of Kassisas has given the authority of overseers. Again in 1st Timothy 3rd chapter clearly describe about the role and pre- requirement of a Kassisa and a Shemshono. This all indicate that in early church has only two positions as far as priest hood is concerned in Christendom. From above information one could see that apostles called the same person as Kassisa and Episcopa. Again ST. Peter in his letter (1st peter 5:1) consider himself as fellow elder (koottu moopan) .Also please note that ST. Paul while writing to Philippians he addresses only Episcopes and Shemshonos i.e. not a word about Kassisas. Again while he writes to Titus he remembers Kassisas (1; 5) and later he call them Episcopa (Titus 1; 7) what is it indicate?
The Kassisa and Episcopa were the same position in early Christendom. Apostles used both words to denote the same position until this position were separated in synod of Nicaea under Constantine .In this synod the Bishop(Kahnooso) Alexander were declared as patriarch and he was consecrated by council of 12 Kahnoosos. This practice of appointing episcopa by council of presbyters was common in Alexandria.
Now let us understand the situation existed in Malankara. Circumstantial evidences along with beliefs indicate that ST. Thomas might have the originator of Indian Christianity in the first century. He might have come here in search of Jews settled in Malankara. He worked among them and converted a good number of people along with locals formed the first group of Nazranies. It is logical to believe that ST.Thomas ordained Kahnoosas and entrusted duties before he go to other places of his work .It is logical to believe that these Kahnoosas are entrusted with power of ordination (to appoint new kahnoosas).This was the practice followed by apostles every where they went. They appointed Kassisas with permission to ordain people when and where they needed. This was the situation existed in Malankara during the first three centuries. We had Kassisas who were entrusted with gift to ordain other Kassisas controlled the affairs of church. Since Malankara church had relations with Alexandria in its early stage it followed the system followed by Alexandrians.
It is found from the documents that Malankara church had relations/visits from Alexandria since we had long standing trade relation with it. Earliest reference we get from the Pantaneous story. I mentioned in my earlier postings that the story of Pntaneous (AD 189) is yet to be analyzed and tested (because the Bartholomew story). The reference indicates that he had collected a copy of book of Mathai from India. But unfortunately we have no tradition related with ST. Bartholomew.
We have very limited documentation related with the prelates during 1st to 5th century. These documents are not quite sufficient to indicate that these prelates had any hierarchical relation with Malankara church. Whether its Panteneous story or story related with the Cosmos Indicopletus all give information about the Christians in India. The trader called cosmos give us information about the church in Malankara along with churches in Thaprobane and Kalliana.The places he describe seems to have been the geographical area of south India. It is note that he mention about a church in Maale and Thaprobane with kasisas and believers while in Kalliana (Bombay, Konkanam, Kollam, Calamina- no body identified the place even today) with bishop and laymen. Is it indicating the early church practices of Kasisa/Episcopa model?
Other prelates said to have been visited during this period were Mar Dudi ,Mar Joseph, Mar Yonan, Theophilus the Indian. All these documents related with above prelates need to be studied before taking any conclusion. The Theophilus story is more related with Malankara Nazranies and one should need to study the Arian aspect of this relation.ie the Theophilus was ordained as an Arian bishop about 350AD.
These relations of foreign prelates are nothing but friendly visits by them and nothing to do with hierarchical relation of church administration. .Had there been any other relations there would have been some kind of proofs existed in Malankara (tombs, beliefs, festivals etc.).If these prelates were active in evangelical work there would have been much documentation related with it. This indicates that these prelates were nothing but just visitors or traders took help from Nazranies.
From 6th to 15th century, there were many prelates visited and also many migrations took place. We have concrete evidence of migration under Mar Sabor and Mar Phroth to Malankara. They settled in Malankara along with Nazranies and contributed to Malankara church. It is interesting to not that their migration given a new era in calendrical calculation in Malankara. It is quite amusing that the migration of people due to the religious intolerance in Persia given any hierarchical credibility in Malankara as far as church administration is concerned.
It is true that we had relation with foreign prelates from Alexandria, Persia, Antioch, and Rome. But the motivation for these relations was primarily for trade and not for church administration. Those prelates who came for trade understood the opportunity as far as the church concerned and involved in it .This changed objective of later day prelates and end up in subjugation of Malankara Nazranies.
The continuous mental exploitation by foreign prelates turned Malankara Nazranies into a subjugated church. The independent model practiced by Malankara Nazranies for their church administration were taken over by these foreign prelates for their benefit and created a story that they were ruled by them since the beginning. The Kahnoosa/Moopan model of church administration were replaced by Metropolitan model .The Alexandrian model which practiced by Malankara Nazranies were the oldest form of administrative set up existed in Christendom. This metropolitan model has also been accepted by Malankara church along with Kahnoosa/Moopan model. There was clear demarcation made by Malankara Nazranies to adopt the new model so that the ordination given by ST. Thomas kept continued as Malankara Moopan. This Moopan were called Achchan to differentiate the position from Episcopa .The Niranam granthavari(Chronicle) clearly mention this while referring to Malankaramoopan.
This Achchan was called Peredyootha (Periodiota) in some records. Mar Gregarious who came to Malankara in 1665AD address the Peredyootha on his letter to church at Mulanthuruthi and Angamali This Peredyootha has the authority to ordinate Kahnooso and Shimshono as per the synod of Ansira in 314 AD. This practice of the council of 12 kassissas with Achchan (Peredyootha /Moopan) like in Alexandria has misunderstood by the foreign prelates as Malankara has no Metropolitan or Priesthood. This position has been misunderstood by these foreign prelates and named as Archdeacon. This caused a lot of trouble in Malankara church history.
Many of the church historians fail to understand the ST. Thomas-Elder/Kassisa-Malankara Moopan model of hierarchy .They proposes the Arch deacon-metropolitan model of hierarchy of 15th century for Malankara church. By doing this they are forgetting the age old tradition of Malankara Nazranies (ST. Thomas tradition).The metropolitan modal in Malankara is derived only during the advent of Portuguese. The uniqueness of Malankara modal can be traced back to the early period of church history in Christendom.