It is clear that the Orthodox Church and the Assyrian Church of the East are much closer both theologically and geographically than the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East. But how different are the first two? I am asking this as a member of the Orthodox Church who wants to know more about the Assyrian Church of the East.

For example, Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel of the Assyrian Church of the East, who is popular nowadays, said in this recent video at minute 0:10 that he is an "orthodox". Did he mean that he is theologically orthodox?

I want to emphasize that this question is about the differences between the Assyrian Church of the East and the Orthodox Church. The quality and the validity of Mar Mari Emmanuel's speeches and the topic discussed in the video are not part of this question. All I can say is that I appreciate very much this man and his teachings. Also, the Catholic Church and the Pope are not part of this question

By differences, I mean the theological, dogmatic and tradition aspects. For example:

  • View on Jesus's Mother. In orthodoxy, she is a very important figure and we pray to her very often and we call her "The one giving birth to God". I wonder how she is regarded in the Assyrian Church of the East
  • In Assyrian Church of the East, does the Holy Spirit come from The Father as in Orthodoxy, or from The Father and The Son as in Catholicism?
  • View on divorce. In Orthodoxy, divorce is not recommended and is often considered a sin. However, unlike the Catholic church, the Orthodox church allows divorces in extreme cases such as adultery, domestic violence and other things that ruin the marriage. What is the Assyrian Church's view on divorce?
  • Are priests allowed to marry? In Orthodoxy, not only that priests can marry, but must be married to become priests through the Holy "Xeirotonía". How is it in the Assyrian church?
  • Is iconography allowed in the Assyrian Church?

In other aspects, I see clear similarities between the Assyrian Church and the Orthodox Church such as the priest's clothing and the white long priest's beard.

  • Historically the Assyrian Church of the East was further away theologically, as it rejects Chalcedon. But since the "Common Christological Declaration Between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East" (1994) the Catholic Church has said they accept each other's theology, despite the ACotE still officially rejecting Chalcedon...
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Feb 11 at 0:35
  • @curiousdannii Yes, but what did Chalcedon synod said that Assyrian Church didn't like?
    – MikeyJY
    Commented Feb 11 at 4:05

2 Answers 2


On the issue of Mariology, the Assyrian Church of the East does not accept the term "theotokos" as the Orthodox Church does. Formally, it accepts only the first two Ecumenical Councils. Its critics consider the church to be Nestorian, although it does not accept accept this label.

On the issue the Holy Spirit's relation to the Father and the Son, it follows the Orthodox line that the Spirit proceeds from the Father only and rejects the Catholic teaching of the filioque (that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son).

It does not use icons other than the Cross. Like the Orthodox Church, it allows divorce in extreme cases only. Currently it allows priests to marry but does not encourage this.


How different is the Orthodox Church and the Assyrian Church of the East?

How different are the Orthodox Churches and the Assyrian Church of the East will depend on what one is looking for!

The Assyrian Church of the East, sometimes called the Church of the East is an Eastern Church that follows the traditional Christology and ecclesiology of the historical Church of the East. It belongs to the eastern branch of Syriac Christianity, and employs the Divine Liturgy of Saints Addai and Mari belonging to the East Syriac Rite. Its main liturgical language is Classical Syriac, a dialect of Eastern Aramaic, and the majority of its adherents are ethnic Assyrians.

The Assyrian Church of the East Should not be confused with the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Church of the East, or the Ancient Church of the East.

There are many difference between the Assyrian Church of the East and the Orthodox Churches. Please keep in mind that the Orthodox Church ”operates as a communion of autocephalous churches, each governed by its bishops via local synods.”

  • The Assyrian Church of the East claims continuity with the historical Church of the East, and it is not in communion with either the Oriental Orthodox Churches or the Eastern Orthodox Church.

  • The Assyrian Church of the East has a traditional episcopal structure, similar to the Orthodox Church, headed by the Catholicos-Patriarch. Its hierarchy is composed of metropolitan bishops and diocesan bishops, while lower clergy consists of priests and deacons, who serve in dioceses (eparchies) and parishes throughout the world. Married priests and deacons are permitted if married prior to ordination to the diaconate.

  • Unlike the Orthodox Church which recognizes the first seven Ecumenical Councils, the Assyrian Church of the East recognizes only the first two ecumenical councils: the First Council of Nicaea (325), and the First Council of Constantinople (381). The Assyrian Church follows trinitarian doctrines, expressed in the Nicene Creed, and professes the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father.

  • The church employs the Syriac dialect of Eastern Aramaic in its liturgy, the East Syriac Rite, which includes three anaphoras, attributed to Addai of Edessa and Mari, Theodore of Mopsuestia and Nestorius.

  • The prayers of the Mass, like those of the Orthodox Eastern Church, are generally long and diffuse. Frequently they end with a sort of doxology called Qanuna which is said aloud, the rest being recited in a low tone. The Qanuna in form and usage resembles the Greek ekphonesis.

  • Unlike other Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East do not have tabernacles and the Sacred Communion at mass is always completely consumed at mass.

  • Theologically, the Assyrian Church of the East does not accept doctrinal definitions that were adopted at the Council of Ephesus (431) and the Council of Chalcedon (451), and still adheres to the Church of the East's traditional Christology, that is often labeled as Nestorian. The use and exact meaning of that term has been the subject of many debates.

  • The Assyrian Church of the East does not currently make use of icons and the interior of its houses of worship are simple. Historically, iconography was present in the Church of the East; but opposition to religious images eventually became the norm due to the spread of Islam in the region, which forbade any type of depictions of saints and biblical prophets. As such, the church was forced to get rid of her icons. History shows that the Assyrian Church of the East is not truly aniconic. Icons are not strictly forbidden, but simply not in general liturgical practice due to historical circumstances.

  • Mary is highly venerated within the Assyrian Church, which prefers the Marian title Mother of Christ over the title Mother of God due to historical reasons.

The following articles may be of interest to some:

  • Very resourceful answer. Why did Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel said that he is an orthodox if he serves in an Assyrian Church?
    – MikeyJY
    Commented Feb 22 at 0:53
  • @Bogdan Because they consider themselves to be Orthodox. Bare in mind that each Orthodox Church is actually independent of one another.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Feb 22 at 0:59

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .