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Toggle navigation The Syriac Biographical Dictionary. Advanced Search. In hagiography: Ephrem is commemorated as a doctor of the church and theologian. Ephrem's ecclesiastical career was based mainly in Nisibis and Edessa. He was the author of hymns, homilies, and prose. His fourth-century writings are remembered as a "golden age" of Syriac literature.
His vita as recounted in hagiography differs greatly from historical accounts. One vita transforms him into a Byzantine monk, which is nevertheless a tribute to his importance in both the Syriac and Byzantine Greek churches. See all works.
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St. Ephraim the Syrian
Works Cited Any information without attribution has been created following the Syriaca. Brock, " Ephrem. Brock et al. Matti Moosa , 2nd rev. Piscataway, NJ : Gorgias Press , , entry: 9, pp: One important physical link to Ephrem's lifetime is the baptistry of Nisibis. The inscription tells that it was constructed under Bishop Vologeses in That was the year that Shapur began to harry the region once again. The cities around Nisibis were destroyed one by one, and their citizens killed or deported.
The Roman Empire was preoccupied in the west, and Constantius and Julian the Apostate struggled for overall control.
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Eventually, with Constantius dead, Julian began his march into Mesopotamia. He brought with him his increasingly stringent persecutions on Christians. Julian began a foolhardy march against the Persian capital Ctesiphon, where, overstretched and outnumbered, he began an immediate retreat back along the same road.
Julian was killed defending his retreat, and the army elected Jovian as the new emperor. Unlike his predecessor, Jovian was a Nicene Christian. He was forced by circumstances to ask for terms from Shapur, and conceded Nisibis to Persia, with the rule that the city's Christian community would leave.
Bishop Abraham, the successor to Vologeses, led his people into exile. Ephrem found himself among a large group of refugees that fled west, first to Amida Diyarbakir , and eventually settling in Edessa modern Sanli Urfa in Ephrem, in his late fifties, applied himself to ministry in his new church, and seems to have continued his work as a teacher perhaps in the School of Edessa. Edessa had always been at the heart of the Syriac-speaking world, and the city was full of rival philosophies and religions. Ephrem comments that Orthodox Nicene Christians were simply called "Palutians" in Edessa, after a former bishop.
Arians , Marcionites , Manichees , Bardaisanites and various Gnostic sects proclaimed themselves as the true Church. In this confusion, Ephrem wrote a great number of hymns defending Orthodoxy. A later Syriac writer, Jacob of Serugh , wrote that Ephrem rehearsed all female choirs to sing his hymns set to Syriac folk tunes in the forum of Edessa. After a ten-year residency in Edessa, in his sixties, Ephrem reposed in peace, according to some in the year , according to others, Over four hundred hymns composed by Ephrem still exist.
Granted that some have been lost to us, Ephrem's productivity is not in doubt. The church historian Sozomen credits Ephrem with having written over three million lines. These hymns are full of rich imagery drawn from biblical sources, folk tradition, and other religions and philosophies.
Each group has a title — Carmina Nisibena , On Faith , On Paradise , On Virginity , Against Heresies —but some of these titles do not do justice to the entirety of the collection for instance, only the first half of the Carmina Nisibena is about Nisibis. The third category of Ephrem's writings is his prose work.
He wrote biblical commentaries on Tatian 's Diatessaron the single gospel harmony of the early Syriac church , on Genesis and Exodus , and on the Acts of the Apostles and Pauline Epistles. He also wrote refutations against Bardaisan , Mani , Marcion and others. Ephrem wrote exclusively in the Syriac language, but translations of his writings exist in Armenian, Coptic, Greek and other languages.
Some of his works are extant only in translation particularly in Armenian. Syriac churches still use many of Ephrem's hymns as part of the annual cycle of worship. However, most of these liturgical hymns are edited and conflated versions of the originals.
Ephraim of Syria
Ephrem's artful meditations on the symbols of Christian faith and his stand against heresy made him a popular source of inspiration throughout the church. This occurred to the extent that there is a huge corpus of Ephrem pseudepigraphy and legendary hagiography. Some of these compositions are in verse, often a version of Ephrem's heptosyllabic couplets.
Most of these works are considerably later compositions in Greek.
Students of Ephrem often refer to this corpus as having a single, imaginary author called Greek Ephrem or Ephraem Graecus as opposed to the real Ephrem the Syrian. This is not to say that all texts ascribed to Ephrem in Greek are false, but many are. Although Greek compositions are the main source of pseudepigraphal material, there are also works in Latin, Slavonic and Arabic.
There has been very little critical examination of these works, and many are still treasured by churches as authentic. The most well known of these writings is the Prayer of Saint Ephrem that is a part of most days of fasting in Eastern Christianity:. Though St.
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Ephrem was probably not formally a monk , he was known to have practiced a severe ascetical life, ever increasing in holiness. In Ephrem's day, monasticism was in its infancy in the Egypt.
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He seems to have been a part of a close-knit, urban community of Christians that had "covenanted" themselves to service and refrained from sexual activity. Some of the Syriac terms that Ephrem used to describe his community were later used to describe monastic communities, but the assertion that he was monk is probably anachronistic.
Related The Sacred Writings of Ephraim the Syrian
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