The Syrian Orthodox Church is one of the most ancient Christian Churches tracing its roots to the Church of Antioch. The Gospel was first preached by the Disciples of Christ in Antioch where the disciples were first called Christians (Acts 11:26). Apostle Peter preached gospel in Antioch and established his Apostolic See in AD 37. Antioch was, at the time of Christ, the capital of the Roman province of Syria. The church historian Eusebius of Caesarea, in his Chronicon (I, 2), states that St. Peter the Apostle established a bishopric in Antioch and became its first bishop. After the martyrdom of St. Peter, he was succeeded by St. Evodius and St. Ignatius respectively.
The name ‘Syrian’ was derived from Cyrus the king of Persia who conquered Babylon (539 BC) and liberated the Jews by permitting them to return to Judea. The name ‘Syrian' is equivalent to the term Christian which was applied to the disciples in Antioch for the first time, because those converted Jews believed that Cyrus, their liberator, resembled Christ the liberator of mankind. So they used to repeat Christ’s name associated with his name for pride upon their return to Judea. When this news arrived to the gentiles in Antioch, they called them ‘Syrians’ or ‘Christians’. From that time onwards the name ‘Syrian’ prevailed first among the Christians of Syria and afterwards among the Christians of Mesopotamia. Persia, India and the Far East.
All the Syrian historians agree that the name of Syria itself is derived from the above mentioned Cyrus. This name existed in association with the Church of Antioch from the very beginning of Christianity. Hence it was called the Syrian Church. The name ‘Syrian’ does not only designate the name of a country, but also designates the proper name of the Church that was established in Syria and used the Syriac, the language of the country. Therefore, it became the ecclesiastical title of the Church of Antioch.
The Syrian Orthodox Church in India (Malankara) is an integral part of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church since a great number of Indian Christians belong to the Syrian Church of Antioch from the very beginning of Christianity. Indian Christians ascribe the origin of their church to the labors of the apostles in the 1st century. According to the tradition and history, it is believed that St. Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Christ came to Kerala, the most southwest state of India in 52 AD. Long before the Christian era, a large colony of Jews had settled on the southwest coast of India known as Malabar. It is a generally admitted fact that commercial communications existed between the coasts of India and Palestine from a very early age. Historians agree that the Jewish colony and the long -standing spice trade between the Middle East and Malabar may have some connection with the arrival of St. Thomas to India. The Apostle is believed to have reached Cranganoore, which thereafter came to be known as Malankara. According to the tradition St. Thomas the Apostle evangelized India and founded churches; four of these churches still exist demonstrating their antiquity. The Apostle then traveled eastward and reached in Mylapore, later known Madras; and he is believed to have been speared to death as his preaching and conversions aroused hostility among local Hindus. This is supposed to have taken place in 72 AD. Since then a large number of Indian Christians had close connections with the Patriarch of Antioch. The Patriarch of Antioch, the successor of St. Peter thus had jurisdiction over the East. This Church in India is intended to honor and observe the traditional and ancient faith of Antioch and its liturgy.