Easter

 

The Orthodox church in Antakya

 

By now Christendom is well over its Easter celebration. Easter is regarded as the main church festival. However, in many aspects it looks more like a pagan festival.

The name itself seems to indicate this. At a time when the Church was closer to original Christianity, the festival was called Pascha or Passover, derived from the Hebrew פסח. But as time went on more and more pagan practices were introduced, and the name was changed to Easter. The origin of the name itself may have been pagan. Wikipedia has this to say about it:

“In his 725 AD work, De temporum ratione, the Venerable Bede, a Northumbrian monk and Christian scholar, suggested that the modern English term Easter, cognate with modern German Ostern, developed from the Old English word Ēastre or Ēostre. This is generally held to have originally referred to the name of an Anglo-Saxon goddess, Ēostre, a form of the widely attested Indo-European dawn goddess. The evidence for the Anglo-Saxon goddess, however, has not been universally accepted, and some have proposed that Eostre may have meant “the month of opening” or that the name Easter may have arisen from the designation of Easter Week in Latin as in albis.” [1]

In his book The Two Babylons, Alexander Hislop observes: 

“Then look at Easter. What means the term Easter itself? It is not a Christian name. It bears its Chaldean origin on its very forehead. Easter is nothing else than Astarte, one of the titles of Beltis, the queen of heaven, whose name, as pronounced by the people of Nineveh, was evidently identical with that now in common use in this country. That name, as found by Layard on the Assyrian monuments, is Ishtar. The worship of Bel and Astarte was very early introduced into Britain, along with the Druids, “the priests of the groves.” Some have imagined that the Druidical worship was first introduced by the Phenicians, who, centuries before the Christian era, traded to the tin-mines of Cornwall. But the unequivocal traces of that worship are found in regions of the British islands where the Phenicians never penetrated, and it has everywhere left indelible marks of the strong hold which it must have had on the early British mind.” [2]

All this may be right or wrong. Whatever the case, Easter has been mixed up with elements that are foreign to any Christian celebration. An example are the Easter eggs. This custom naturally has a myth of origin. It says:

“The coloring of “Easter eggs” originated from the pious legend that Mary Magdala was bringing cooked eggs to share with the other women at the tomb of Christ – This remains the tradition among observant Jews even in our own time – When Mary Magdala saw the Lord, the eggs in her basket turned brilliant red. Thus, the true meaning of dyeing Easter eggs is to show forth the miraculous transformation and re-creation of the whole world by the victorious resurrection of Christ.” [3]

Alexander Hislop disagrees. Quoting Fabulae of Gaius Julius Hyginus (d. AD 17) he writes:

“The classic poets are full of the fable of the mystic egg of the Babylonians ; and thus its tale is told by Hyginus, the Egyptian, the learned keeper of the Palatine library at Rome, in the time of Augustus, who was skilled in all the wisdom of his native country: “An egg of wondrous size is said to have fallen from heaven into the river Euphrates. The fishes rolled it to the bank, where the doves having settled upon it, and hatched it, out came Venus, who afterwards was called the Syrian Goddess “— that is, Astarte. Hence the egg became one of the symbols of Astarte or Easter; and accordingly, in Cyprus, one of the chosen seats of the worship of Venus, or Astarte, the egg of wondrous size was represented on a grand scale.”[4]

Hislop may have a point. A footnote by John Garstang in the book The Syrian Goddess by Lucian of Samosata says: “Atargatis, [Astarte] according to the form of the legend given by the scholiast on Germanicus’ “Aratus” was born of an egg which the sacred fishes found in the Euphrates and pushed ashore.” [5]

Now, all this is very strange. In the Middle East, Antioch (or Antakya) included, there was a tradition of weeping for the god Tammuz. The story goes that the young Tammuz (who, among other things, represented vegetation) died and was bewailed by his consort Ishtar (or Astarte), the goddess of love and sex. Eventually he returned to life again. With the egg as a symbol of life or resurrection – and at the same time connected to Venus or Astarte – it is puzzling to read the story of Mary Magdala at Jesus’ tomb, where she takes upon herself the role of the wailing the death of Jesus with eggs turning red at his resurrection.

Besides all this, it should be remembered that the Nusairy Alewites (a group of Muslims regarded as renegade by the mainstream) in Antakya and western Syria celebrates a “Festival of Eggs” roughly at the same time as the Catholic and Orthodox Churches celebrate Easter. And evidently, this festival has nothing to do with the resurrection of Christ. The Nusairys are not afraid of admitting that they, besides Muslim holidays, also celebrate those of their Christian neighbours, such as “Epiphany, Pentecost, and Palm Sunday.” [6] However, they do not claim that their Festival of Eggs has any connection with anything Christian.

Nevertheless, a similarity exists between the Festival of Eggs and the Melkite story about Mary Magdala. The Nusayri Alewites, like the Hindus, believe in reincarnation in the literal sense of the word. According to a source of mine, a Protestant with an Alewite background, the eggs represent reincarnation. Obviously the Nusayri Alewites and the churches have the tradition of celebrating a festival by using eggs from the same source although the connotations of the eggs are different, but not at all dissimilar.

Is it not strange that Mary Magdala, who by some is believed to be a former prostituted, is waiting at Jesus’ tomb for his resurrection with eggs in her hands? It is as if the egg-born Astarte is waiting for the resurrection of her Tammuz, just in a new disguise.

People are naturally free to mix whatever they like into their popular beliefs. However, the uncontrollable connotations of their new discourse may take them to places they did not anticipate.

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1. “Easter,” Wikipedia, accessed April 2, 2013, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter.

2. Alexander Hislop, The Two Babylons (London: S. W. Patridge &Co., 1858) 103.

3. “Great Lent and the Holy Week,” Eparchy of Newton –Melkite Greek Catholic Church, accessed April 2, 2013, https://melkite.org/faith/faith-worship/holy-week-traditions.

4. Hislop, The Two Babylons, 109. See also Hyginus, trans. Mary Grant, Fabulae 150-199, accessed April 2, 2013, http://www.theoi.com/Text/HyginusFabulae4.html:

CXCVII. VENUS

Into the Euphrates River an egg of wonderful size is said to have fallen, which the fish rolled to the bank. Doves sat on it, and when it was heated, it hatched out Venus, who was later called the Syrian goddess. Since she excelled the rest in justice and uprightness, by a favour granted by Jove, the fish were put among the number of the stars, and because of this the Syrians do not eat fish or doves, considering them as gods.”

5. Lucian, The Syrian Goddess, (London: Constable and Company LTD, 1913) 81n56

6. Matti Moosa, Extremist Shiites – The Ghulat Sects, (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1988) 393

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The state of old Antakya

In 1822 Antakya (Antioch) was hit by an earthquake that destroyed many buildings in the city. The English gentleman Neale, who visited the city 25 years later, has the following description from an English family of three who were living in Antakya at the time of the catastrophe:

“Suddenly a terrible sensation was experienced, and the whole house waved to and fro on the stormy billows of a tempest-driven ocean. The sensation was only momentary; the dizziness occasioned, such as ensures when you miss your footing and slip from a narrow plank or pathway down a steep bank side. A fearful report, and shaking as though the earth had been rent in twain, almost instantly succeeded; there was a great cloud of lime, dust, and mortar. a fearfully yell of alarm and pain from all quarters. One half of the city lay prostrate in the dust; the other half was little better than crumbling ruins.” 1

However, Antakya rose again, but only to be struck by another earthquake in 1872. In the meantime Ibrahim Pasha and his Egyptian soldiers had visited the city. Unfortunately he used stones from the walls off ancient Antioch and from ruins of important buildings to built his own palace and the barracks still standing. Neale writes:

“In addition to the destructive effects of this catastrophe, Ibrahim Pacha, in his attempt to beautify the modern city, blew up, by means of subterranean mines, almost every particle that remained of the original walls of the city. The superb barracks built by him to accommodate ten thousand men, as well as the beautiful country-residence on the banks of the Orontes, erected for the Pacha’s private use, were constructed from materials which had originally formed the oldest structures of the city.” 2

Today it is still possible to find old buildings which may have survived the earthquake in 1872 and therefore probably date back to the period after the great earthquake in 1822. Unfortunately, many of these buildings are in a state of extreme neglect. Subsidies have been given to have some of the old houses along the street called KurtuluşCaddesi (formerly the Colonnaded Street) renovated. It looks however as if just the facades have got a face-lift, and nothing more.

 

                       

People in modern Antakya, and especially the housewives, are less than interested in moving into an old house where bathroom and kitchen are across the yard. In other cases, an old building has been left to heirs who cannot agree about what to do with it. In some cases, no doubt, listed buildings are wilfully left to decay so that a modern monster in concrete can erected on the spot.

 

 

One solution may have been to allow foreign purchasers with special interest to buy the old buildings and have them renovated. Unfortunately, a decision made by the Cabinet in Ankara has put a stop to that. There it has been decided that foreigners cannot buy real estate in the province of Hatay, where Antakya is located. While it is understandable that a government may put certain restriction on the sale of real estate to foreigners, it is difficult to understand why people with a residence permit in Turkey should not be able to buy the house they live in – especially if they pay for the renovation of the place. This, at least, would be of benefit for the old part of Antakya, which, in turn, would attract more tourists.

 

It is hoped that somebody eventually will “see the light” and permit people to contribute to the embellishment of Antakya.

 

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1. F. A. Neale, Evenings at Antioch; with Sketches of a Syrian Life (London: Eyre and Williams, 1854) xxvi, xxvii.

2. F. A. Neale, Eight Years in Syria, Palestine, and Asia Minor from 1842 to 1850, Volume II (London: Colburn and Co., Publishers, 1852) 11, 12.

 

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An Old Antakya House

 

After more than four years in a modern house of concrete, we managed to move into one of the old houses in the central quarter of Antakya. The house is located between what used to be the Colonnaded Street and the Orontes inside the area that used to be within the first Seleucid wall. In fact, it may even be located at the spot of Bottia, the small town at the bank of the Orontes at the time of Alexander the Great.

It is uncertain how old the house is. One thing is sure: it can be found on a photo of Antioch taken from an airplane by the French in 1932. Consequently, it very likely dates back to the big earthquake on April 3, 1872 that counted VII-VIII in Antakya.[1]

But it may in fact be older. Part of the house is made of big stones while another part is evidently built later. If part of the house is older than 1872, it may have been built after the earthquake  on August 13, 1822 that destroyed most of the city (estimated as VIII).[2]

Originally it was one of the classical houses in this area with a big courtyard with trees and a well surrounded by buildings, all of them with their doors opening towards the courtyard. The house where we are living used to be part of such a complex but was later divided up in two plots.

In the part of the old courtyard that belongs to us whe had the concrete that covered the yard removed so that the original pavement was seen. However, in the middle of it a hollow was found. Modern Antiochenes told us that it in Arabic was called a jurn, a place where women used to grind wheat and make purée of tomatoes and pepper. We placed a big flower pot with a palm tree in it so that people would not fall into it. In fact, some of our workers did.

 

Later we found out that water collected in the jurn, so we had a hole drilled in its bottom and realised that there was a well underneath it.

The toilet and the kitchen were in a separate building with access from the yard. We kept it like that. Removing the plaster from the kitchen wall, the workers found a fireplace in the wall. Although we do not need a fireplace there, we kept it as it used to be.

 

There was no bathroom, but we found out why.

The floor of the living room is elevated about 40 cm over ground level; but when entering the room, there is an area of marble on about two square meters at ground level where you can leave your shoes before stepping up into the living room.

 

By the locals we were told this was where people used to take a bath with a bucket of hot water at their side.

The floor of the living room was covered with concrete as was the yard. We had it removed and had tiles of original pattern put on the floor. When the concrete was removed, the workes found a small hole made of stone in the floor.

 

It showed up the be a primitive way of heating. In old times the hole was filled with glowing charcoal and people sat around it, probably covering the their legs and the charcoal with a wool or goat hair blanket.

The walls of the living room are filled with build-in cupboards. We have kept them in their original colour.

 

The windows are tall with internal shudders.

 

To the right in the wall towards the part of the house that has been added later (perhaps after the earthquake in 1872), there is a clear evidence that the originally was a door towards the outside.

 

The newer part of the house is less interesting. It is shown on the French aireal photograph from 1931, so we may assume that it was added after the earthquake in 1872. We use it as a studio.

 

It has been an interesting experience to move into an old Antakya house. Although it in many respects is different from the houses in ancient Antioch, it has some of the same flavour. The centre of Antakya has many houses of the same sort, many of the a lot larger than ours. Unfortunately they are left to decay.

 

An Antakya house from about 1850 [3]

 

(See also my book Antioch on the Orontes – A History and a Guide (Hamilton 2012))

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1.  Mohamed Reda Sbeinati, Ryad Darawcheh & Mikhail Mouty, “The historical earthquakes of Syria: an analysis of large and moderate earthquakes from 1365 B.C to 1900 A.D.” Annals of Geophysics, Volume 48, N. June 2005, 414

2.  Ibid. 413, 414

3. F. A. Neale, Evenings at Antioch (London: Eyre and Williams, 1954)

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The Cherubim Gate and the carob trees

 

In second century Antioch there was a gate at the southwest extreme of the Colonnaded Street called the Cherubim Gate.[1] Outside this gate was the settlement of Kerateion and after this the settlement of Rhodion on the eastern side of the torrent Phyrminus.

       

                 

A map of old Antakya. The location of the Cherubim Gate is marked with an x. Ouard is the Arabic name for rose, So we maintain that this quarter is what was called Rhodion. Today it is called Güllü Bahçe (Rose Garden). Kerateion was very like identical with Mahsan.

The story goes that the Roman general Titus after destroying Jerusalem in 70 CE put up representation of cherubs (angelic beings) taken from the temple in Jerusalem at this gate to annoy the Jews living in this neighbourhood. The cherubs are thought to have been similar to those who had been placed on the Ark of the Covenant in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. However, at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, this room was empty. Consequently, it is uncertain what the cherubs at the gate were supposed to have been.

We have this story from the Byzantine chronicler Ioannes Malalas who died in 578, about five hundred years after the destruction of Jerusalem. He writes:

“Titus, having celebrated a triumph for his victory, departed for Rome; and Vespasian from the Jewish spoils built in Antioch the Great the so-called Cherubim before the gate of the city. For there he fixed the bronze Cherubim which he found fixed in the Temple of Solomon; and when he destroyed the Temple he took them thence and carried them to Antioch with the Seraphim, celebrating the triumph for the victory over the Jews which had taken place in his reign, setting up above a bronze statue in honour of the Moon with four bulls facing Jerusalem, for he had taken it at night when the moon was shining.” [2]

The trouble with Malalas, though, is that he has a tendency to mix hearsay into his writings. Thus, Jerusalem was not taken by night as claimed in the quotation. This, of course, would not exclude that Titus set up statues of some sort at the gate.

The gate is also mentioned by a biographer of Symeon Stylites the Younger in connection with a plague that hit the city in the sixth century:

“The destroyer went toward the gate at the south, which issues towards Daphne, and there rose from the so-called Cherubim, and as far as Rhodion, in all the quarter called Kerateion, a great cry and mourning and much lamentation.” [4]

According to this, the quarter called Kerateion was situated outside the Cherubim Gate, between the gate and the quarter of Rhodion.

On the other hand, Procopius gives us the following information about the situation of Kerateion(or Cerataeum):

“So, then, after the city had been destroyed, the church was left solitary, thanks to the activity and foresight of the Persians to whom this work was assigned. And there were also left about the so-called Cerataeum many houses, not because of the foresight of any man, but, since they were situated at the extremity of the city, and not connected with any other building, the fire failed entirely to reach them.” [5]

According to these two quotations, Kerateion was situated outside the Cherubim gate with sufficient distance to be unharmed by the fire inside Antioch. It should be mentioned, though, that the wind in Antakya is mostly in the west. If this was the case when the Persians burnt the city, flames and sparks would blow in the opposite direction of Kerateion. The space between the city inside the Cherubim Gate and Kerateion may not have been extremely wide.

It also seems that there was a quarter called Cherubim in ancient Antioch.[6] Naturally, this could have been a quarter inside the gates, or it could have been between the Cherubim Gate and Kerateion.

However, the quotation from the biography of Symeon Stylites the Younger seems to indicate that the quarter of Cherubim was outside the gate. And Procopius’ story about the fire leaves us with in impression that there was no other quarter between Kerateion and the city. This seems reasonable as the distance between the old site of the Cherubim Gate and the quarter called Rhodion (today Ward [rose] in Arabic and Güllü Bahçe [rose garden] in Turkish) can be walked in less than five minutes.

 

 

The area south of the Cherubim Gate in modern Antakya. The gate does not exist anymore.

There is another explanation, although it admittedly is based on abduction.

Here in the Middle East mythopoeia is a common phenomenon. Over the Cave Church of St. Peter, for example, you find the rock-hewn bust of Charon, the character that, according to Greek mythology, took the souls of the diseased over the River Styx. Locals will tell you that originally it is the Virgin Mary. To them Charon looks like a woman and he is carved into the rock over the church, so why not?

 

But back to the Cherubim Gate.

As mentioned above the word cherub is a Hebrew word (כרוב: kerûb). The plural of this word is kerûbîm. The Greeks in Antioch would write is as χερουβιμ while the Arameans would either use the Hebrew form above or their own kerûbîn.

Now the word kerûbim pronounced nearly as the word for carob in Hebrew and Aramaic (חרוב, cherub or kherûb).[7]

In the Hebrew translation of Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son in the Gospel of Luke chapter 15, the Greek word for carobs in verse 16 has been translated by the word cherûbin plural (חרובים).[8]In the original Greek text the word is κεράτιον (keration). According to a Greek dictionary, κερατωνια (keratwnia) and κερατεα (keratea) are names of the carob tree. Please notice how close these words for carobs are to the name of the quarter of Kerateion between the Cherubim Gate and the quarter of Rhodion.

Consequently I suggest that we dismiss the story of Malalas about cherubs set up by Titus at the south-western gate of Antioch.

Indeed, there may have been statues or similar objects at the gate, and they may even have been placed there by Titus. But as people did not know what they represented – or they knew, but later generations forgot it- the Aramaic and Hebrew name of the quarter between the gate and the quarter of Rhodion, the Quarter of Carobs, was believed to mean the Quarter of Cherubs (Cherubim), and the gate was named accordingly. This process would be similar to the one that has happened to Charonion, by some believed to represent the Virgin Mary.

The Greek speaking populace, however, continued to call the quarter by its original name Kerateion ([the quarter of] carobs) while they started to use the Hebrew name on the gate.

In this connection it should be remembered that the Jewish quarter was situated at the gate, probably outside it, in the quarter of Kerateion (between the Jewish synagogue and the point where streets Oğuzlar Caddesi and Kurtuluş Caddesi today meet). It is therefore natural that it was the Hebrew version (cherûbîm) and not the Aramaic version (cherûbîn) that became common.

 

(For further information, please see my book Antioch on the Orontes – A History and a Guide (Hamilton 2012))

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POSTSCRIPTUM

The fruit of the carob tree is often associated with John the Baptist. In German it is called Johannisbrot, in Danish johannesbrød, in Swedish johannesbröd, in Dutch Johannesbrood, in Finnish johanneksenleipäpuu.

The story goes that the Medieval ascetics did not like the idea that John the Baptist used to grashoppers. He was not supposed to eat meat, they thought. Consequently they insisted that the grashoppers mention in the New Testament account were in fact carobs.[9]

Now, inside the Cherubim Gate there was a church dedicated to John the Baptist. Symeon Stylites the Younger, who was living in the quarter of Cherubim, was baptised in this church. Consequently the Church of John the Baptist and the quarter of Cherubim cannot have been far apart.

Today this church is the Habib-i Neccar Mosque, and inside the mosque, a few steps from the former quarter of Kerateia, there is a room with a sarcophagus claimed to contain the bones of John the Baptist (called Yahya in Turkish and Arabic).

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[1] Cherûbîmis the Hebrew word in plural.

[2] Ioannes Malalas, Chronographia (Bonn: Impensis Ed. Weberi, 1831), 260-61. The translation has been taken from Christopher Ecclestone, “The Cherubim Gate,” Antiochepedia, December 16, 2008, accessed August 28, 2012, http://libaniusredux.blogspot.com/2008/12/cherubim-gate.html.

[3] Glanville Downey, A History of Antioch in Syria (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961) 206 fn 25.

[4] Quoted by Glanville Downey. Ibid., 614.

[5] Procopius, History of the Wars, Book I and II (London: William Heinemann; New York: The Macmillan Co. 1914), 345.

[6] Downey, A History of Antioch in Syria, 614.

[7] Please compare: “Carob,”Balashon – Hebrew Language Detective (accessed August 29, 2012, http://www.balashon.com/2006/07/carob.html), Genesis 3:24 in the Septuagint version, and the Gospel of Luke 15:16 in a Hebrew translation.

[8] Torah, Nebî’îm, Ketûbîm, Berîth Hadashah (Jerusalem: Hôtsi’ath Qeren Achawah Mashîchîth).

[9] Sebastian Brock, St John the Baptist’s diet – according to some early Christian sources (Greek and Syriac), accessed September 1, 2012, http://www.sjc.ox.ac.uk/3763/John-the-Baptists-Diet.pdf.download.

 

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The Church of St. Peter – Documentation

 

                     

A shown in an earlier post (http://antioch-on-the-orontes.blogspot.com/2012/04/grotto-of-st-peter.html) a cave in modern Antakya is by some regarded as the first church in history. Interestingly, this grotto is not mentioned in early sources.

The oldest church found is, apart from so-called house-churches, the Megiddo Church from the third century. In fact, even this may be regarded as a house-church. [1]Only after the Edict of Milan in 313 CE church building really started. [2]This edict issued by Licinius and the Constantine the Great permitted Christians to practice their religion without the interference of the State. Constantine himself, who by the way was a pagan, took steps to having churches built. Thus, he had the church of Hagia Eirene in Constantinople (now Istanbul) built on a spot where a pagan temple used to stand.

Constantine also took steps to have a church built in Antioch. It was located on what is now the eastern bank of the Orontes opposite the stream now called Kavaslı. The only reason this is interesting in this context is the words of the French traveller Jean de la Roque, who visited the city in 1688:

“The Christians of Antioch still see with pain what is left of the famous basilica now collapsed that had been dedicated to the Prince of the Apostles by the Emperor Constantine and described so beautifully by Eusebius. It was in this house of worship it is believed that they found the tip of the spear that pierced the side of the Saviour.” [3]

This would give us the impression that a basilica dedicated the Apostle Peter had been erected in Antioch on the order of Constantine. However, if we look at the description of Eusebius mentioned by Jean de la Roque, we find something else:

“He [Constantine] also decorated the principal cities of the other provinces with sacred edifices of great beauty; as, for example, in the case of that metropolis of the East which derived its name from Antiochus, in which, as the head of that portion of the empire, he consecrated to the service of God a church of unparalleled size and beauty. The entire building was encompassed by an enclosure of great extent, within which the church itself rose to a vast elevation, being of an octagonal form, and surrounded on all sides by many chambers, courts, and upper and lower apartments; the whole richly adorned with a profusion of gold, brass, and other materials of the most costly kind.”[4]

Evidently, what Jean de la Roque had seen may have been the ruins of the Octagonal Church, also called the Great Church, not the Church of St. Peter.

In fact, the fourth century is well documented, as far as Antioch is concerned; but nowhere in the homilies of the cleric John Chrysostom or in the writings his teacher, the pagan philosopher Libanius, any church of St. Peter is mentioned, nor is any grotto bearing his name.

This is odd indeed as the third century saw a virtual “explosion” in veneration of saints, and churches bearing their names were built.

The first church we have been able to find in Antioch with any reference to the Apostle Peter is the Church of Cassianus (Kusyan or Kusian). This was the place where the body of Symeon Stylites the Elder was placed after his death until it was moved to the Great Church mentioned above. [5]

It is unclear who Cassianus was. There was a certain John Cassianu, an ascetic whodied in Marseille, France, in 435. Symeon died in at his place between Antioch and Aleppo in 459, and it is unlikely that a church bearing Johns name had been built by then.

Where history is weak, myth comes to the rescue. After visiting Antioch 1051, the Christian physician Ibn Butlân gave this description:

“In the centre of the city is the church of Al Kusiyan. It was originally the palace of Kusiyan, the king, whose son, Futrus (St. Peter), chief of the disciples, raised to life. It consists of a chapel (Haikal), the length of which is 100 paces, and the breadth of it 80, and over it is a church (Kanisah), supported on columns, in which the judges take their seat to give judgment, also those sit here who teach Grammar and Logic. At one of the gates of this church is a Clepsydra (Finjân), showing the hours. It works day and night continuously, twelve hours at a round, and it is one of the wonders of the world.” [6]

The same church is mentioned by the Persian geographer al-Istakhri, who visited Antioch a hundred years before Ibn Butlân. He also mentions other churches, but not any Grotto of St. Peter.

The Arab historian al-Masûdi, who came to Antioch about the same time, tells us that the Church of al-Kusyân was one of the most important churches is the city. He does not mention any cave church of St. Peter. [7]

In 1098 the Crusaders captured Antioch and established the Principality of Antioch. And now a certain Cathedral of St. Peter is mentioned frequently in our sources. According to the description given, however, this church was not in a cave.

A chronicle of the First Crusade called Gesta Francorum has this to tell about finding the lance that supposedly had been used on Jesus Christ:

“Accordingly, upon hearing the statements of that man who reported to us the revelation of Christ through the words of the apostle, we went in haste immediately to the place in the church of St. Peter which he had pointed out. Thirteen men dug there from morning until vespers. And so that man found the Lance, just as he had indicated. They received it with great gladness and fear, and a joy beyond measure arose in the whole city.” [8]

It is unlikely that thirteen men can dig half a day in the floor of the cave church. The description simply does not match.

Furthermore, in 1149 Prince Raymond of Antioch was buried in the vestibule of St. Peter’s, in 1170 part of the church collapsed over the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, in 1189 King Frederic Barbarossa was buried there, and in 1194 the citizens met in the court-house of the church to discuss the future of the city. [9] Nothing of this would match the grotto.

There is all reasons to believe that what was former known as the Church of Kusyân (or Kusiyân) was now known as the Cathedral of St. Peter. [10]

In 1268 Antioch was destroyed by the Egyptian Sultan Baibars, and whatever churches he may have left standing were transformed into mosques. Nevertheless, in 1580 the Muslims donated the cave to the Christians in Antakya (Antioch),[11] and when travellers from the West eventually started to arrive, they found no churches, but the local Christians showed them this cave.

The anthropologist Richard Pococke has the following to tell us from his visit in 1738:

“Towards the iron gate, is the church of St. John, which is hewn out of the rock, being a sort of grotto open to the west; there is no alter in it; but the Greeks, who have their service there every Sunday and holiday, bring an alter to the church, and near it they bury their dead.” [12]

Not the Church of St. Peter, but the Church of St. John!

In 1816 the Englishman James Silk Buckingham passed by. He writes:

“The Christians have made several unsuccessful efforts to build a church for themselves here; but, though they are not wanting in wealth, and successive firmans have been obtained from Stamboul for that purpose, yet, the fanaticism of the Turks and some unfortunate fatality which they think attached to the town itself, has hitherto always obstructed its execution. They resort, therefore, to a cave on the east of the town for the performance of their religious duties.” [13]

Evidently the Christians met in the cave, not because of any association to any saint or apostle, but because they had no other choice.

In 1847 the English gentleman Frederic Arthur Neale stayed in Antioch for some months. He describes the Orthodox church and the Catholics in the city, but he does not mention any cave church.[14]

Shortly before 1860 Emily Beaufort visited Antioch. She writes:

“The wall descended from the Iron Gate into the plain, passing below the ancient Church of St. John, lately purchased by the French with a piece of ground for a cemetery. This church is in fact a very ancient excavation from the living rock – two pillars have been left standing in front as a portico. In the corner, besides the altar, is a small well, and the grotto seems to have been excavated some way further.” [15]

This is no doubt a description of what is now called the Church of St. Peter. Until the middle of the nineteenth century it was called the Church of St. John. No story about the Apostle Peter, his preaching in Antioch, or the use of the name Christian was associated to it.

In 1856 the cave was purchased by the French consul in Aleppo and donated to the Catholic Church. Only after this, the cave was associated with the Apostle Peter and the first century Christians.

 

 

___________

[1] Vassilios Tsaferis, “Inscribed ‘To God Jesus Christ,'” BAR Magazine (no date), accessed August 20, 2012, http://www.bib-arch.org/online-exclusives/oldest-church-02.asp.

[2] “House church,” Wikipedia, accessed August 21, 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_church#Early_Christian_house_churches.

[3] Jean de la Roque, Voyage de Syrie et du Mont-Liban (Paris: Andre Cailleau, 1722), 245, 246.

[4] Philipp Schaff ed. Eusebius Pamphilius: Church History, Life of Constantine,

Oration in Praise of Constantine(New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1890)1020.

[5] Glanville Downey, A History of Antioch in Syria (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961) 481.

[6] Gui Le Strange, Palestine under the Muslims; a description of Syria and the Holy land from A.D. 650 to 1500. Translated from the works of mediaeval Arab geographers. London: Published for The Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund by Alexander P. Watt, 1890. 370, 371.

[7] Ibid. 368.

[8] “Gesta Francorum,” August C. Krey, ed., The first crusade; the accounts of eye-witnesses and participants(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1921), 176.

[9] E. S. Bouchier, A Short History of Antioch — 300 B.C. –A.D. 1268 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1921) 257-64.

[10] Ibid. 207.

[11] M. Grazia Zambon, Domenico Bertogli and Oriano Granella, Antioch on the Orontes (Parma: Edizionei Eteria, [no year]), 55.

[12] John Pinkerton, ed., A general collection of the best and most interesting voyages and travels in all parts of the world, Vol. X. 561.

[13] James Silk Buckingham, Travels among the Arab tribes inhabiting the countries East of Syria and Palestine (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1825), 556–567.

[14] Frederic Arthur Neale, Eight years in Syria, Palestine and Asia Minor, from 1842 to 1850, Vol. II (London: Colburn and Co., 1852) and Evenings at Antioch; With Sketches of Syrian Life(London: Eyre and Williams,1854).

[15] Emily A. Beaufort, Egyptian Sepulchres and Syrian Shrines (London: Longman, green, Longman, and Roberts, 1862), 311

 

  

 

  

A shown in an earlier post (http://antioch-on-the-orontes.blogspot.com/2012/04/grotto-of-st-peter.html) a cave in modern Antakya is by some regarded as the first church in history. Interestingly, this grotto is not mentioned in early sources.

 

The oldest church found is, apart from so-called house-churches, the Megiddo Church from the third century. In fact, even this may be regarded as a house-church. [1]Only after the Edict of Milan in 313 CE church building really started. [2]This edict issued by Licinius and the Constantine the Great permitted Christians to practice their religion without the interference of the State. Constantine himself, who by the way was a pagan, took steps to having churches built. Thus, he had the church of Hagia Eirene in Constantinople (now Istanbul) built on a spot where a pagan temple used to stand.

 

Constantine also took steps to have a church built in Antioch. It was located on what is now the eastern bank of the Orontes opposite the stream now called Kavaslı. The only reason this is interesting in this context is the words of the French traveller Jean de la Roque, who visited the city in 1688:

 

The Christians of Antioch still see with pain what is left of the famous basilica now collapsed that had been dedicated to the Prince of the Apostles by the Emperor Constantine and described so beautifully by Eusebius. It was in this house of worship it is believed that they found the tip of the spear that pierced the side of the Saviour. [3]

 

This would give us the impression that a basilica dedicated the Apostle Peter had been erected in Antioch on the order of Constantine. However, if we look at the description of Eusebius mentioned by Jean de la Roque, we find something else:

 

He [Constantine] also decorated the principal cities of the other provinces with sacred edifices of great beauty; as, for example, in the case of that metropolis of the East which derived its name from Antiochus, in which, as the head of that portion of the empire, he consecrated to the service of God a church of unparalleled size and beauty. The entire building was encompassed by an enclosure of great extent, within which the church itself rose to a vast elevation, being of an octagonal form, and surrounded on all sides by many chambers, courts, and upper and lower apartments; the whole richly adorned with a profusion of gold, brass, and other materials of the most costly kind.[4]

 

Evidently, what Jean de la Roque had seen may have been the ruins of the Octagonal Church, also called the Great Church, not the Church of St. Peter.

  

In fact, the fourth century is well documented, as far as Antioch is concerned; but nowhere in the homilies of the cleric John Chrysostom or in the writings his teacher, the pagan philosopher Libanius, any church of St. Peter is mentioned, nor is any grotto bearing his name.

 

This is odd indeed as the third century saw a virtual “explosion” in veneration of saints, and churches bearing their names were built.

  

The first church we have been able to find in Antioch with any reference to the Apostle Peter is the Church of Cassianus (Kusyan or Kusian). This was the place where the body of Symeon Stylites the Elder was placed after his death until it was moved to the Great Church mentioned above. [5]

  

It is unclear who Cassianus was. There was a certain John Cassianu, an ascetic whodied in Marseille, France, in 435. Symeon died in at his place between Antioch and Aleppo in 459, and it is unlikely that a church bearing Johns name had been built by then.

  

Where history is weak, myth comes to the rescue. After visiting Antioch 1051, the Christian physician Ibn Butlân gave this description:

   

In the centre of the city is the church of Al Kusiyan. It was originally the palace of Kusiyan, the king, whose son, Futrus (St. Peter), chief of the disciples, raised to life. It consists of a chapel (Haikal), the length of which is 100 paces, and the breadth of it 80, and over it is a church (Kanisah), supported on columns, in which the judges take their seat to give judgment, also those sit here who teach Grammar and Logic. At one of the gates of this church is a Clepsydra (Finjân), showing the hours. It works day and night continuously, twelve hours at a round, and it is one of the wonders of the world. [6]

   

The same church is mentioned by the Persian geographer al-Istakhri, who visited Antioch a hundred years before Ibn Butlân. He also mentions other churches, but not any Grotto of St. Peter.

 

The Arab historian al-Masûdi, who came to Antioch about the same time, tells us that the Church of al-Kusyân was one of the most important churches is the city. He does not mention any cave church of St. Peter. [7]

 

In 1098 the Crusaders captured Antioch and established the Principality of Antioch. And now a certain Cathedral of St. Peter is mentioned frequently in our sources. According to the description given, however, this church was not in a cave.

 

A chronicle of the First Crusade called Gesta Francorum has this to tell about finding the lance that supposedly had been used on Jesus Christ:

 

Accordingly, upon hearing the statements of that man who reported to us the revelation of Christ through the words of the apostle, we went in haste immediately to the place in the church of St. Peter which he had pointed out. Thirteen men dug there from morning until vespers. And so that man found the Lance, just as he had indicated. They received it with great gladness and fear, and a joy beyond measure arose in the whole city. [8]

  

It is unlikely that thirteen men can dig half a day in the floor of the cave church. The description simply does not match.

 

Furthermore, in 1149 Prince Raymond of Antioch was buried in the vestibule of St. Peter’s, in 1170 part of the church collapsed over the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, in 1189 King Frederic Barbarossa was buried there, and in 1194 the citizens met in the court-house of the church to discuss the future of the city. [9] Nothing of this would match the grotto.

 

There is all reasons to believe that what was former known as the Church of Kusyân (or Kusiyân) was now known as the Cathedral of St. Peter. [10]

 

In 1268 Antioch was destroyed by the Egyptian Sultan Baibars, and whatever churches he may have left standing were transformed into mosques. Nevertheless, in 1580 the Muslims donated the cave to the Christians in Antakya (Antioch),[11] and when travellers from the West eventually started to arrive, they found no churches, but the local Christians showed them this cave.

 

The anthropologist Richard Pococke has the following to tell us from his visit in 1738:

  

Towards the iron gate, is the church of St. John, which is hewn out of the rock, being a sort of grotto open to the west; there is no alter in it; but the Greeks, who have their service there every Sunday and holiday, bring an alter to the church, and near it they bury their dead.[12]

 

Not the Church of St. Peter, but the Church of St. John!

 

In 1816 the Englishman James Silk Buckingham passed by. He writes:

 

The Christians have made several unsuccessful efforts to build a church for themselves here; but, though they are not wanting in wealth, and successive firmans have been obtained from Stamboul for that purpose, yet, the fanaticism of the Turks and some unfortunate fatality which they think attached to the town itself, has hitherto always obstructed its execution. They resort, therefore, to a cave on the east of the town for the performance of their religious duties.[13]

 

Evidently the Christians met in the cave, not because of any association to any saint or apostle, but because they had no other choice.

 

In 1847 the English gentleman Frederic Arthur Neale stayed in Antioch for some months. He describes the Orthodox church and the Catholics in the city, but he does not mention any cave church.[14]

 

Shortly before 1860 Emily Beaufort visited Antioch. She writes:

 

The wall descended from the Iron Gate into the plain, passing below the ancient Church of St. John, lately purchased by the French with a piece of ground for a cemetery. This church is in fact a very ancient excavation from the living rock – two pillars have been left standing in front as a portico. In the corner, besides the altar, is a small well, and the grotto seems to have been excavated some way further.[15]

 

This is no doubt a description of what is now called the Church of St. Peter. Until the middle of the nineteenth century it was called the Church of St. John. No story about the Apostle Peter, his preaching in Antioch, or the use of the name Christian was associated to it.

 

In 1856 the cave was purchased by the French consul in Aleppo and donated to the Catholic Church. Only after this, the cave was associated with the Apostle Peter and the first century Christians.

  

 

 
 

___________

 

[1] Vassilios Tsaferis, “Inscribed ‘To God Jesus Christ,'” BAR Magazine (no date), accessed August 20, 2012, http://www.bib-arch.org/online-exclusives/oldest-church-02.asp.

 

[2] “House church,” Wikipedia, accessed August 21, 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_church#Early_Christian_house_churches.

 

[3] Jean de la Roque, Voyage de Syrie et du Mont-Liban (Paris: Andre Cailleau, 1722), 245, 246.

 

[4] Philipp Schaff ed. Eusebius Pamphilius: Church History, Life of Constantine,

 

Oration in Praise of Constantine(New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1890)1020.

 

[5] Glanville Downey, A History of Antioch in Syria (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961) 481.

 

[6] Gui Le Strange, Palestine under the Muslims; a description of Syria and the Holy land from A.D. 650 to 1500. Translated from the works of mediaeval Arab geographers. London: Published for The Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund by Alexander P. Watt, 1890. 370, 371.

 

[7] Ibid. 368.

 

[8] “Gesta Francorum,” August C. Krey, ed., The first crusade; the accounts of eye-witnesses and participants(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1921), 176.

 

[9] E. S. Bouchier, A Short History of Antioch — 300 B.C. –A.D. 1268 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1921) 257-64.

 

[10] Ibid. 207.

 

[11] M. Grazia Zambon, Domenico Bertogli and Oriano Granella, Antioch on the Orontes (Parma: Edizionei Eteria, [no year]), 55.

 

[12] John Pinkerton, ed., A general collection of the best and most interesting voyages and travels in all parts of the world, Vol. X. 561.

 

[13] James Silk Buckingham, Travels among the Arab tribes inhabiting the countries East of Syria and Palestine (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1825), 556–567.

 

[14] Frederic Arthur Neale, Eight years in Syria, Palestine and Asia Minor, from 1842 to 1850, Vol. II (London: Colburn and Co., 1852) and Evenings at Antioch; With Sketches of Syrian Life(London: Eyre and Williams,1854).

 

[15] Emily A. Beaufort, Egyptian Sepulchres and Syrian Shrines (London: Longman, green, Longman, and Roberts, 1862), 311

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The Grotto of St. Peter

In Mount Staurin across from the torrent of Parmenius you find the Grotto of St Peter facing the west.

 

                       

The grotto is located on the slopes of Mount Staurin in the centre of the picture. The populated area in front of it was the Forum of Valens in Byzantine times. On the left side of the highway, behind Mount Staurin at the crossroad, mosaics from prominent buildings have been found indicating that this area was an important place in town.

Each year this grotto, also called the Church of St Peter, is visited by thousands of tourists and pilgrims. According to a CD from the governor’s office in Hatay,[1] the grotto was proclaimed a “site of pilgrimage by Pope Paul VI” in 1983. Furthermore, it is claimed that this cave was used as a church by the first Christians and that it probably was here the word Christian was used for the first time.

One of the local stories goes that Peter when arriving coming to Antioch decided to found a church there and found the cave fitting for this purpose. It is held that the grotto was chosen because it was a suitable hiding place for the persecuted Christians.[2] Thus university lecturer Dr. Uysal Yenipınar writes:

“St. Peter held his frst meeting and performed his first baptism in Antakya in the grotto church at the skirts of Mount Staurin. Those who assembled in this grotto at the border of the Jewish quarter received for the first time the name Christian in this grotto, meaning that they adhered to the teachings of Hıristas, Jesus Christ. St. Paul and St. Barnabas gave their first sermons to the Christian congregation in this grotto.”[3]

The same story is found in the book XIX. Yüzyılda Bir Osmanlı Şehri Antakya[4] and the story is repeated to every tourist who cares listening to a guide.

The homepage of the Catholic Church in Antakya (Antioch), however, is more cautious:

“Clearly this was a site of pagan worship which the Christians, rather than destroying, later transformed into a site of their own religion, and assigned it the name of an Apostle.

Naturally, this religious transformation must date from the time when this became possible, namely when the Emperor Theodosius the Great [AD 379-395], in the Edict of Thessalonica, proclaimed Christianity the state religion. …

It would be fair to conclude that the mountain was a sacred place for the city, dedicated to some pagan god.

There were two aqueducts fed from the streams that ran down to the thermal pools which were below and to the right of the small incline which leads to the Cave.

It is also probable that it was in the time of Theodosius the Great that this pagan site was transformed into a place of Christian worship. History tells us in fact that from 388 AD onward any places of pagan worship which were not destroyed were turned into places of Christian worship as if they were ‘baptised’.”[5]

This is in line with what Glanville Downey observed in his scholarly book on Antioch: “A grotto on Mount Silpius has traditionally been called the grotto of St. Peter, where he is supposed to have preached and baptized, but there is no satisfactory proof of this association.”[6]

In fact, even in the well documented fourth century we hear nothing of some grotto dedicated to the apostle Peter. Although the quest for “holy relics” had become a fashion, nobody seems to have believed that the city possessed one of the most important sites in Christendom.

And why, anyway, should the local Christians at the time of the apostles assemble in a cave? “To hide from persecutors!” the story goes.

It should be remembered, though, that early Christians fled from Jerusalem to Antioch to avoid persecution when a Christian named Stephen had been lynched there. As the Bible book of Acts relates:

“Then those who had gone away at the time of the trouble about Stephen, went as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus, preaching to the Jews only. But some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, when they came to Antioch, gave the good news about the Lord Jesus to the Greeks. And the power of the Lord was with them, and a great number had faith and were turned to the Lord. And news of them came to the ears of the church at Jerusalem: and they sent Barnabas as far as Antioch.”[7]

In fact, there is no report of any persecution of Christians in Antioch until the end of the first century.[8]However, even if there had been persecution of Christians at the time of the visit of Peter, the grotto would have been a very bad place to hide. During the first century, and many centuries to come, the grotto was located in the centre of Antioch, not far from the theatre and the Colonnaded Street.

On this map drawn by the Italian scholar Giovanni Uggeri,[9] I have marked the Grotto of St. Peter with red, the East Gate with blue and the Cherubim Gate with green.

 

To try to have secret worship in a cave in the centre of Antioch would be like having clandestine meetings on Times Square in New York. Why use a place so conspicuous when you could use one of the thousands of houses in downtown Antioch where you could have you meetings without any interference!

First time we hear of a Church of St. Peter in Antioch is at the time of the Emperor Constantine who was also called the Great (306-337). This, however, was evidently not the grotto. At the time of the Crusader Principality (1199 – 1268) there was a Cathedral of St Peter. The grotto is not mentioned and later visitors say that the locals call the grotto the Church of St John.

Whatever the case, it is not at all unsafe to conclude that the apostle Peter had nothing to do with the grotto bearing his name, although he may have known about its existence.

___________

[1] Hatay, the Cradle of Civilizations, (Hatay: Hatay Provincial Administration General Secretariat, [no year]).

[2] Sic.

[3] Uysal Yenipınar, Antiocheia – Orientis Apicem Pulcrum – Mitolojik ôyküler – Hatay (Izmir: Etki Yayınları, 2010), 246.

[4] Adem Kara, XIX.Yüzyılda Bir Osmanlı şehri Antakya (Istanbul: IQ Kültür Sanat Yayıncılık, 2005), 59.

[5] Chiesa Cattolica Antiochia, “Grotto of St. Peter in Antioch,” accessed 20.03.2012, http://www.anadolukatolikkilisesi.org/antakya/en/grotta.asp

[6] Glanville Downey, A History of Antioch in Syria from Seleucus to the Arab Conquest, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961), 284, note 47.

[7] Acts chapter 11 verses 19-22. (The Bible in Basic English)

[8] E. S. Bouchier, A Short History of Antioch (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1921), 80, 81.

[9] Christopher Ecclestone, “The Uggeri Map,” Antiochepedia, accessed April 23, 2012, http://libaniusredux.blogspot.com/2009/03/uggeri-map.html

 

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Does “honour killing” have a religious background?

It is a common Western misunderstanding that honour killing or honour murder is a Muslim phenomenon. This delusion very likely has its roots the massive immigration of Muslims to Western Europe during the last fifty years. In the Middle East the murder of women because of “honour” as all too widespread and unfortunately this atrocious habit was taken along to the West with the immigration of the Middle Easterners.

The philosophy behind honour killings – or should we call it shame killing – is that a feudalistic community operates with two separate concepts of honour: the honour of women and the honour of men.

The honour of women, in Turkish called namus (decency, chastity) and in Arabic عرض ,is preserved by a conduct that does not cast doubt on their chastity. If this happens, they lose their namus and her husband or father loses his honour, in Turkish called şeref which is the same as the Arabicشرف . In this case the man who is regarded as the one responsible for the honour of the family has to prove his honourableness and that of his family by washing away the shame brought upon them. This is normally done by shedding the blood of the woman who is regarded as a source of shame.

In Islam there has been some discussion about what to do with women who commit adultery. In the Quran we find the following commands:

“As for those of you women who are guilty of lewdness (الفاحشة ), call to witness four of you against them. And if they testify then confine them to the houses until death take them ( الموت يتوفّاهنّ ) or Allah appoints for them a way.” Sura 4; 15.

It seems that this text does not warrant a death penalty passed by any family council in the absence of the perpetrator. Evidently official legal action with at least four witnesses was required.[i]

www.religioustolerance.org/ provides us with this information:

“Chapter 24 of Islam’s holy book, the Qur’an, explicitly instructs believers to whip those found guilty of adultery. A leading Muslim scholar, Maulana Muhammad Ali noted that ‘stoning to death was never contemplated by Islam as a punishment for adultery.‘ Roman Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Dr. Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, said that the ‘official text of the Qur’an only sanctions a punishment of so many lashes for such an offence not stoning to death…[the] punishment of stoning was introduced later by Omar, the second Calif for reasons best known to him.6Many Muslim scholars and judges agree that the Qur’an does not refer to executions by stoning.'”[ii]

It therefore seems that honour killing is not a religious but a sociological phenomenon peculiar to feudalistic communities. Consequently it is not surprising that this menace is also found among professing Christians who are living in or have their roots in patriarchal or feudalistic communities.

The following is a quotation from an article on the web site Stop honour killings!:

“So-called honour killings are also part of Italy’s legal history, where the idea was an admitted defense until 1981.

Prior to its reversal, an article existed in the Italian Criminal Code that provided a reduced penalty of imprisonment of only three to seven years for a man who killed his wife, sister or daughter to vindicate his or his family’s honour.

Such crimes were once a fairly widely accepted feature of highly traditional communities in southern Italy – and even sparked an Oscar-winning 1961 comedy called Divorce, Italian Style, starring Marcello Mastroianni.

The Mafia, clinging to the past, has much more recently killed women who ‘strayed’ sexually or had children without being married.”[iii]

The latest example on honour killing done by confessing Christians is a case from Turkey. Here is the story as told by UPI:

“ISTANBUL, Turkey, April 17 (UPI) — A criminal court in Turkey handed a sentence of life in prison Tuesday to a man convicted in the execution-style slaying of his sister and brother-in-law.

The young couple were found shot to death in their car 10 days after they married against the wishes of the bride’s family, Today’s Zaman reported.

Sonay Ogmen, 26, and Zekeriya Vural, 29, each died from a single bullet to the forehead.

Police determined the couple had been killed by someone they knew sitting in the back seat of their car.

“I shot both of them,” the bride’s brother, Gonay Ogmen, told police after he was arrested. “We didn’t want that groom.”

The groom’s uncle, Cemal Vural, said the bride’s family opposed the marriage because she was Christian and Zekeriya Vural was Muslim.”[iv]

____

[i] Marmaduke Pickthall, trans., The Glorious Qur’ân, Istanbul: Çağrı Yayınları, 1999, 80.

[ii] “Punishment for non-marital sex in Islam,” Religious Tolerance, accessed April 20, 2012, http://www.religioustolerance.org/isl_adul2.htm.

[iii] Joanna, “Mafia still think they ‘own’ women,” Stop honour killings! accessed April. 22, 2012, http://www.stophonourkillings.com/?q=node/3323.

[iv] “Turkish newlyweds slain over religious difference,” UPI, accessed April 22, 2012, http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2012/04/17/Turkish-newlyweds-slain-over-religious-difference/UPI-25961334667352/.

 

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