Christians in the Sassanid Empire belonged mainly to the Nestorian Church (Church of the East) and the Jacobite Church (Syriac Orthodox Church) branches of Christianity. Although these churches originally maintained ties with Christian churches in the Roman Empire, they were indeed quite different from them. One reason for this was that the liturgical language of the Nestorian and Jacobite Churches was Syriac rather than Greek, the language of Roman Christianity during the early centuries (and the language of Eastern Roman Christianity in later centuries). Another reason for a separation between Eastern and Western Christianity, was strong pressure from the Sassanid authorities to sever connections with Rome, since the Sassanid Empire was often at war with the Roman Empire.
Christianity was recognized by king Yazdegerd I in 409 as an allowable faith within the Sassanid Empire. In 410, at the Council of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, Mar Isaac was elected as Catholicos of the Church of the East.
The major break with mainstream Christianity came in 431, due to the pronouncements of the First Council of Ephesus. The Council condemned Nestorius, a theologian of Cilician/Kilikian origin and the patriarch of Constantinople, for teaching a view of Christology in accordance with which he refused to call Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, "Theotokos" or Mother of God. While the teaching of the Council of Ephesus was accepted within the Roman Empire, the Sassanid church disagreed with the condemnation of Nestorius' teachings. When Nestorius was deposed as patriarch, a number of his followers fled to the Sassanid Persian Empire. Persian emperors used this opportunity to strengthen Nestorius' position within the Sassanid church (which made up the vast majority of the Christians in the predominantly Zoroastrian Persian Empire) by eliminating the most important pro-Roman clergymen in Persia and making sure that their places were taken by Nestorians. This was to assure that these Christians would be loyal to the Persian Empire, and not to the Roman.
Most of the Christians in the Sassanid empire lived on the western edge of the empire, predominantly in Mesopotamia, but there were also important communities on the island of Tylos (present day Bahrain), the southern coast of the Persian Gulf, the area of the Arabian kingdom of Lakhm, and the Persian part of Armenia. Some of these areas were the earliest to be Christianized; the kingdom of Armenia became the first independent Christian state in the world in 301. While a number of Assyrian territories had almost become fully Christianized even earlier during the 3rd century, they never became independent nations.
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—Aldous Huxley (18941963)
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