The establishment of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch
Professor Sebastian Brock says in Part II of the Hidden Pearl on page 185 about the establishment of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch:
Traditionally, it was in Antioch that the followers of Jesus first received the name ‘Christians’ (Acts 11:26), and St. Peter is said to have been its first bishop for a period of seven en years (AD 33-40) before moving to Rome where he was martyred. Not surprisingly Antioch developed as a great centre of Christian learning and missionary activity, and amongst its most influential theologians and church leaders are numbered saints Ignatius, Serapion, and John Chrysostom. Under their leadership and inspiration, and that of many others who are now barely remembered, Christianity slowly but steadily spread, over period of centuries, from the great rnetropolis into its neighboring towns and villages. (Other Syrians exercised a profound influence on western Christianity in general. For ex ample the sixth-century bilingual Syrian Romanos the Melodist, who came from Homs, wrote numerous hymns in Greek for the Byzantine Church which are still sung in the liturgy and which introduced many exegetical traditions from Ephrem and other Syriac authors into Greek thought. Again, a seventh-century monk named Theodore from Tarsus went on to become Archbishop of Canterbury in England and oversaw the re-establishment of Christianity there, as well as bringing some distinctively Syrian traditions and practices with them.)
The earliest Christian inscriptions in Syria, placed above the entrances of private houses as well as in churches and monasteries, are in Greek, which suggests that this was the language employed by many of the earliest missionaries even in Aramaic villages. However, from the late fourth and fifth centuries on there are increasing numbers of Syriac inscriptions which indicates that from tjis time missionaries trained in Edessa (modern Urfa in SE Turkey) were increasingly active within the region. Edessa fell within he Antiochian sphere of influence but had its own distinctive history and traditions (not to mention an internationally renowned theological school), and so was a major missionary centre in its own right. Since the majority language in Edessa was Syriac, and since related dialects of Aramaic were spoken throughout the rural areas of the Middle East, as well as by many in the ‘hellenistic’ cities, the use of this eastern ‘lingua franca’ gave Edessen missionaries a distinct advantage. They were also helped by the existence of numerous flourishing monasteries and ascetic communities in the surrounding areas, for these provided the necessary evangelists. Disadvantages included the existence in Edessa of a number of rival sects - such as the Marcionites, Manichees, and Gnostics- which were also active in proselytizing others and whose opposition had to be overcome, as well as persecution at the hands of the imperial authorities, both secular and religious, following the Syrian Orthodox rejection of the Christological teachings promulgated at the Council Chalcedon in 451 AD. (From the seventh century on the rule by Islamic governments created a new set of problems). Despite these obstacles (and the obvious political problems of being sited at the frontier between the Roman and Persian empires) missionaries from Edessa exercised a profound influence both to the North and to the South.
Antioch in the Bible
Acts 11:26,, He found Saul and brought him to Antioch, where they met with the church for a whole year and taught many of its people. There in Antioch the Lord's followers were first called Christ”
Acts 11:27-29,, During this time some prophets from Jerusalem came to Antioch. 28 One of them was Agabus. Then with the help of the Spirit, he told that there would be a terrible famine everywhere in the world. And it happened when Claudius was Emperor”.
Acts 13:1-3,, The church at Antioch had several prophets and teachers. They were Barnabas, Simeon, also called Niger, Lucius from Cyrene, Manaen, who was Herod's close friend, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and going without eating, the Holy Spirit told them, "Appoint Barnabas and Saul to do the work for which I have chosen them." 3 Everyone prayed and went without eating for a while longer. Next, they placed their hands on Barnabas and Saul to show that they had been appointed to do this work. Then everyone sent them on their way”
Acts 14:26,, Then they went down to Attalia 26 and sailed to Antioch in Syria. It was there that they had been placed in God's care for the work they had now completed.”