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Wall painting from a Nestorian Temple in the ancient ruined city of Khocho (Gaochang), Taklamakan Desert, China (A.D. 683–770)

Nestorianism was a doctrine set forth by fifth-century bishop of Constantinople Nestorius, which stated that there were two separate persons—human and divine—in the incarnate Christ as opposed to the orthodox teaching that Christ was a divine person who assumed a human nature.

After Nestorius’ views were condemned in 431 by the Council of Ephesus, supporters of his theology formed a center of resistance at the famed theological school in Edessa. The school was closed in 489 by imperial order and a small remnant of Nestorians migrated to Persia (Iran). In 637, following the Arab conquest of Persia, the Nestorians were recognized as a religious community and their scholars became influential in the formation of Arab culture. Today most of their members, usually referred to as Assyrian Christians, live in Iraq, Syria, and Iran.

In Heart of Asia, Nicholas Roerich recounted the legends of Saint Issa throughout the East and speculated that they might have Nestorian origins:

Not far from Leh, on a stony hill, are ancient graves, believed to be prehistoric and recalling Druidic antiquities. Not far away is also the place of the old Mongolian Kham, which tried to conquer Ladak. In this valley also are Nestorian crosses, once more recalling how widely spread in Asia was Nestorianism and Manicheism.

In Leh, we again encountered the legend of Christ’s visit to these parts. The Hindu postmaster of Leh and several Ladaki Buddhists told us that in Leh not far from the bazaar, there still exists a pond, near which stood an old tree. Under this tree, Christ preached to the people, before his departure to Palestine. We also heard another legend of how Christ, when young, arrived in India with a merchant’s caravan and how He continued to study the higher wisdom in the Himalayas. We heard several versions of this legend which has spread widely throughout Ladak, Sinkiang and Mongolia, but all versions agree on one point, that during the time of His absence, Christ was in India and Asia. It does not matter how and from where the legend originated. Perhaps it is of Nestorian origin. It is valuable to see that the legend is told in full sincerity.[1]

In Trails to Inmost Asia, George Roerich says:

It seems very probable that there existed a floating Nestorian Christian population in Ladak during the eighth to tenth centuries A.D. when Nestorian colonies were numerous along the trade routes of Turkestan and other regions of central Asia. Whether the Nestorian visitors to Ladak were merchants or pilgrims, it is impossible to determine at present. In the country round Ladak and Kashmir are found curious legends of a Christian character, which are at present current among the Mohammedan population of the two provinces.[2]

See also



Elizabeth Clare Prophet, The Lost Years of Jesus: Documentary Evidence of Jesus’ 17-Year Journey to the East, chapter 4.

  1. Nicholas Roerich, Heart of Asia (New York: Roerich Museum Press, 1929), pp. 29–30.
  2. George Roerich, Trails to Inmost Asia (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1931), pp. 28–29.