(Minor Fulfillment of Matt. 24/25 or Revelation
Oswald T. Allis
John A. Broadus
Wilhelm De Wette
Charles Homer Giblin
Johann von Hug
J, F, and Brown
Jean Le Clerc
Jack P. Lewis
Sir Isaac Newton
Dr. John Owen
William W. Patton
Rudolph E. Stier
(Major Fulfillment of Matt. 24/25 or Revelation
John L. Bray
Dr. John Brown
Francis X. Gumerlock
J. Marcellus Kik
Ovid Need, Jr
Milton S. Terry
(Virtually No Fulfillment of Matt. 24/25 & Revelation in 1st
C. - Types Only ; Also Included are "Higher Critics" Not Associated With Any
Alan Patrick Boyd
John N. Darby
Charles G. Finney
J.P. Green Sr.
John N.D. Kelly
Dr. John Smith
George Fox |
Margaret Fell (Fox) |
PRETERIST UNIVERSALISM |
MODERN PRETERISM |
Ephrem the Syrian
The greatest poet of the patristic age
and, perhaps, the only theologian-poet to rank beside Dante.
Translated out of the Original Syriac (pdf)
Over four hundred hymns composed by Ephrem still exist.
Granted that some have been lost, Ephrem's productivity is not in doubt. The
church historian Sozomen credits Ephrem with having written over three
million lines. Ephrem combines in his writing a threefold heritage: he draws
on the models and methods of early Rabbinic Judaism, he engages skilfully
with Greek science and philosophy, and he delights in the
Mesopotamian/Persian tradition of mystery symbolism.
Roger Pearse: Phil
Snider has (somehow) been reading Ephrem’s Hymns against Julian the
summary of what they say is fascinating, and may be very relevant to our
I’ve always been interested in these hymns,
but as far as I knew, no translation existed in any modern language. Does
anyone know of one?
UPDATE: Apparently there is one, in Samuel
emperor Julian: panegyric and polemic, Liverpool 2, 1996. This
contains a panegyric by Claudius Mamertinus; Chrysostom’s Homily on St.
Babylas, against Julian and the pagans XIV-XIX (so presumably not
complete); and Ephrem the Syrian’s Hymns against Julian. The
latter fills 24 pages of a TTH volume, so is not all that long.
The book also contains the following
information on editions and translations:
The HcJul. were first published
by J. Overbeck in his florilegium of Syriac writers: S. Ephraemi
Syri, Rabulaei episcopi Edesseni, Balaei aliorumque opera selecta
(Oxford, 1865) pp. 3-20. They were translated into German with brief
notes by G. Bickell in his article: ‘Die Gedichte des hl. Ephräm gegen
Julian den Apostaten’, Zeitschrift für katholische Theologie,
II (1878) pp. 335-56. Bickell’s translation was republished with fuller
introduction and notes by S. Euringer in Bibliothek der Kirchenvater,
(Kempten and Munich, 1919) pp. 199-238. The most recent edition and the
one on which the present translation is based is that of E. Beck,
Des heiligen Ephraem des Syrers Hymnen de Paradiso und Contra Julianum,
CSCO 175 (text) and 176 (trans.), (Louvain, 1957). There is an
unpublished Oxford B. Litt, thesis on the poems (with translation) by P.
C. Robson, A Study of Ephraem Syrus Hymns Against Julian the
Apostate and the Jews (Ms. B. Litt. d. 1411, 1969). Hymn IV, 18-23
has been translated into English by Sebastian Brock in the appendix to
his edition of the Syriac letter attributed to Cyril of Jerusalem on the
rebuilding of the Temple (Brock, 1977,283-4).
I had forgotten that the BKV texts are
online, thanks to Gregor Emmeneger,
here, which includes the
four hymns against Julian, starting
"Death trampled our Lord underfoot but he in his turn
treated death as highroad for his own feet. He submitted to it,
enduring it willingly, because by this means he would be able to destroy
death in spite of itself. Death had its own way when our Lord went out
from Jerusalem carrying his cross; but when by a loud cry from that
cross he summoned the dead from the underworld, death was powerless to
Death slew him by means of the body which he had
assumed; but the same body proved to be the weapon with which he
conquered death. Concealed beneath the cloak of his manhood, his
godhead engaged death in combat; but in slaying our Lord, death itself
was slain. It was able to kill natural human life, but was itself
killed by the life that is above the nature of man.
Death could not devour our Lord unless he possessed a
body, neither could hell swallow him up unless he bore our flesh; and so
he came in search of a chariot in which to ride to the underworld. This
chariot was the body which he received from the virgin; in it he invaded
death’s fortress, broke open its strong room and scattered all its
At length he came upon Eve, the mother of all the
living. She was that vineyard whose enclosure her own hands had enabled
death to violate, so that she could taste its fruit; thus the mother of
all the living became the source of death for every living creature.
But in her stead Mary grew up, a new vine in place of the old. Christ,
the new life, dwelt within her. When death, with its customary
impudence, came foraging for her mortal fruit, it encountered its own
destruction in the hidden life that fruit contained. All unsuspecting,
it swallowed him up, and in so doing released life itself and set free a
multitude of men.
He who was also the carpenter’s glorious son set up his
cross above death’s all consuming jaws, and led the human race into the
dwelling place of life. Since a tree had brought about the downfall of
mankind, it was upon a tree that mankind crossed over to the realm of
life. Bitter was the branch that had once been grafted upon that
ancient tree, but sweet the young shoot that has now been grafted in,
the shoot in which we are meant to recognize the Lord whom no creature
We give glory to you, Lord, who raised up your cross to
span the jaws of death like a bridge by which souls might pass from the
region of the dead to the land of the living. We give glory to you who
put on the body of a single mortal man and made it the source of life
for every other mortal man. You are incontestably alive. Your
murderers sowed your living body in the earth as farmers sow grain, but
it sprang up and yielded an abundant harvest of men raised from the
Come then, my brothers and sisters, let us offer our
Lord the great and all-embracing sacrifice of our love, pouring out our
treasury of hymns and prayers before him who offered his cross in
sacrifice to God for the enrichment of us all."
WIKIPEDIA BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
Ephrem the Syrian (Syriac: ܐܦܪܝܡ ܣܘܪܝܝܐ, Afrêm Sûryāyâ;
Greek: Ἐφραίμ ὁ Σῦρος; Latin: Ephraem Syrus; ca. 306 – 373) was a deacon,
prolific Syriac-language hymnographer (writer of hymns) and theologian of
the 4th century. He is venerated by Christians throughout the world, and
especially among Syriac Christians, as a saint.
Ephrem wrote a wide variety of hymns, poems and homilies in verse, as well
as prose biblical commentaries. These were works of practical theology for
the edification of the Church in troubled times. So popular were his works,
that, for centuries after his death, Christian authors wrote hundreds of
pseudepigraphous works in his name. Ephrem's works witness to an early,
vibrant expression of Christian faith, little touched by the European modes
of thought, and more engaged with eastern methods of discourse. He has been
called the most significant of all of the fathers of the Syriac-speaking
The newly excavated Church of Saint Jacob in Nisibis, where Ephrem taught
and ministered.Ephrem was born around the year 306 in the city of Nisibis
(the modern Turkish town of Nusaybin, on the border with Syria). Internal
evidence from Ephrem's hymnody suggests that both his parents were part of
the growing Christian community in the city, although later hagiographers
wrote that his father was a pagan priest. Numerous languages were spoken in
the Nisibis of Ephrem's day, mostly dialects of Aramaic. The Christian
community used the Syriac dialect. Various pagan religions, Judaism and
early Christian sects vied with one another for the hearts and minds of the
populace. It was a time of great religious and political tension. The Roman
Emperor Diocletian had signed a treaty with his Persian counterpart Nerses
in 298 that transferred Nisibis into Roman hands. The savage persecution and
martyrdom of Christians under Diocletian were an important part of Nisibene
church heritage as Ephrem grew up.
Jacob, the first bishop of Nisibis, was appointed in 308, and Ephrem grew up
under his leadership of the community. Jacob of Nisibis is recorded as a
signatory at the First Council of Nicea in 325. Ephrem was baptized as a
youth, and almost certainly became a son of the covenant, an unusual form of
Syrian proto-monasticism. Jacob appointed Ephrem as a teacher (Syriac
malp̄ānâ, a title that still carries great respect for Syriac Christians).
He was ordained as a deacon either at his baptism or later. He began to
compose hymns and write biblical commentaries as part of his educational
office. In his hymns, he sometimes refers to himself as a 'herdsman' (ܥܠܢܐ,
‘allānâ), to his bishop as the 'shepherd' (ܪܥܝܐ, rā‘yâ) and his community as
a 'fold' (ܕܝܪܐ, dayrâ). Ephrem is popularly credited as the founder of the
School of Nisibis, which in later centuries was the centre of learning of
the Church of the East.
In 337 Emperor Constantine I, who had legalised and promoted the practice of
Christianity in the Roman Empire, died. Seizing on this opportunity, Shapur
II of Persia began a series of attacks into Roman North Mesopotamia. Nisibis
was besieged in 338, 346 and 350. During the first siege, Ephrem credits
Bishop Jacob as defending the city with his prayers. Ephrem's beloved bishop
died soon after the event, and Babu, who succeeded Jacob as bishop, led the
church through the turbulent times of border skirmishes. In the third siege,
of 350, Shapur rerouted the River Mygdonius to undermine the walls of
Nisibis. The Nisibenes quickly repaired the walls while the Persian elephant
cavalry became bogged down in the wet ground. Ephrem celebrated what he saw
as the miraculous salvation of the city in a hymn which portrayed Nisibis as
being like Noah's Ark, floating to safety on the flood.
The interior of the Church of Saint Jacob in Nisibis.One important physical
link to Ephrem's lifetime is the baptistery of Nisibis. The inscription
tells that it was constructed under Bishop Vologeses in 359. 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 II and Julian
struggled for overall control. Eventually, with Constantius dead, Julian the
Apostate began his march into Mesopotamia. He brought with him his
increasingly stringent persecutions of Christians. Julian began a foolhardy
march against the Persian capital, Ctesiphon, where, overstretched and
outnumbered, he was forced into 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 provision that the city's Christian community
would leave. Bishop Abraham, the successor to Vologeses, led his people into
Ephrem found himself among a large group of refugees that fled west, first
to Amida (Diyarbakır), and eventually settling in Edessa (modern Şanlıurfa)
in 363. 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 Nicene 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
succumbed to the plague as he ministered to its victims. The most reliable
date for his death is 9 June 373.
Over four hundred hymns composed by Ephrem still exist. Granted that some
have been lost, Ephrem's productivity is not in doubt. The church historian
Sozomen credits Ephrem with having written over three million lines. Ephrem
combines in his writing a threefold heritage: he draws on the models and
methods of early Rabbinic Judaism, he engages skilfully with Greek science
and philosophy, and he delights in the Mesopotamian/Persian tradition of
The most important of his works are his lyric, teaching hymns (ܡܕܖ̈ܫܐ,
madrāšê). These hymns are full of rich, poetic imagery drawn from biblical
sources, folk tradition, and other religions and philosophies. The madrāšê
are written in stanzas of syllabic verse, and employ over fifty different
metrical schemes. Each madrāšâ had its qālâ (ܩܠܐ), a traditional tune
identified by its opening line. All of these qālê are now lost. It seems
that Bardaisan and Mani composed madrāšê, and Ephrem felt that the medium
was a suitable tool to use against their claims. The madrāšê are gathered
into various hymn cycles. 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). Each madrāšâ
usually had a refrain (ܥܘܢܝܬܐ, ‘ûnîṯâ), which was repeated after each
stanza. Later writers have suggested that the madrāšê were sung by all women
choirs with an accompanying lyre.
Particularly influential were his Hymns Against Heresies. Ephrem used
these to warn his flock of the heresies which threatened to divide the early
church. He lamented that the faithful were "tossed to and fro and carried
around with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their
craftiness and deceitful wiles." He devised hymns laden with doctrinal
details to inoculate right-thinking Christians against heresies such as
docetism. The Hymns Against Hereies employ colourful metaphors to describe
the Incarnation of Christ as a fully human and divine. Ephrem asserts that
Christ's unity of humanity and divinity represents peace, perfection and
salvation; in contrast, docetism and other heresies sought to divide or
reduce Christ's nature, and in doing so would rend and devalue Christ's
followers with their false teachings.
Ephrem also wrote verse homilies (ܡܐܡܖ̈ܐ, mêmrê). These sermons in poetry
are far fewer in number than the madrāšê. The mêmrê are written in a
heptosyllabic couplets (pairs of lines of seven syllables each).
The third category of Ephrem's writings is his prose work. He wrote biblical
commentaries on the 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
Ephrem wrote exclusively in the Syriac language, but translations of his
writings exist in Armenian, Coptic, Georgian, Greek and other languages.
Some of his works are only extant 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.
The most complete, critical text of authentic Ephrem was compiled between
1955 and 1979 by Dom Edmund Beck OSB as part of the Corpus Scriptorum
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 by others, 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.
Veneration as a saint
Soon after Ephrem's death, legendary accounts of his life began to
circulate. One of the earlier 'modifications' is the statement that Ephrem's
father was a pagan priest of Abnil or Abizal. However, internal evidence
from his authentic writings suggest that he was raised by Christian parents.
This legend may be anti-pagan polemic or reflect his father's status prior
to converting to Christianity.
The second legend attached to Ephrem is that he was a monk. In Ephrem's day,
monasticism was in its infancy in Egypt. He seems to have been a part of the
members of the covenant, 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 anachronistic. Later hagiographers often painted a picture of Ephrem
as an extreme ascetic, but the internal evidence of his authentic writings
show him to have had a very active role, both within his church community
and through witness to those outside of it. Ephrem is venerated as an
example of monastic discipline in Eastern Christianity. In the Eastern
Orthodox scheme of hagiography, Ephrem is counted as a Venerable Monk.
Ephrem is popularly believed to have taken legendary journeys. In one of
these he visits Basil of Caesarea. This links the Syrian Ephrem with the
Cappadocian Fathers, and is an important theological bridge between the
spiritual view of the two, who held much in common. Ephrem is also supposed
to have visited Saint Pishoy in the monasteries of Scetes in Egypt. As with
the legendary visit with Basil, this visit is a theological bridge between
the origins of monasticism and its spread throughout the church.
On 5 October 1920, Pope Benedict XV proclaimed that Ephrem is a Doctor of
the Church. This proclamation was made before critical editions of Ephrem's
authentic writings were available.
The most popular title for Ephrem is Harp of the Spirit (Syriac: ܟܢܪܐ ܕܪܘܚܐ,
Kenārâ d-Rûḥâ). He is also referred to as the Deacon of Edessa, the Sun of
the Syrians and a Pillar of the Church.
Today, Saint Ephrem presents an engaging model of Asian Christianity, which
might prove a valuable source of theological insight for Christian
communities that wish to break out of the European cultural mould. Ephrem
also shows that poetry is not only a valid vehicle for theology, but is in
many ways superior to philosophical discourse for the purpose of doing
theology. He also encourages a way of reading the Bible that is rooted more
in faith than in critical analysis. Ephrem displays a deep sense of the
interconnectedness of all created things, which could develop his role in
the church into that of a 'saint of ecology'. There are modern studies into
Ephrem's view of women that see him as a champion of women in the church.
Other studies have focused on the importance of 'healing' imagery in Ephrem.
Ephrem, then, confronts the contemporary church as an orthodox saint engaged
in a theology that is at once nonwestern, poetic, ecological, feminist, and
The greatest poet of the patristic age and, perhaps, the
only theologian-poet to rank beside Dante. — Robert Murray.
The boldness of our love is pleasing to you, O Lord, just as it pleased you
that we should steal from your bounty. — Ephrem the Syrian, Hymns on Faith
You (Jesus) alone and your Mother are more beautiful than any others, for
there is no blemish in you nor any stains upon your Mother. Who of my
children can compare in beauty to these? — Ephraim the Syrian, Nisibene
Hymns 27:8; ca. 361 AD.
Bou Mansour, Tanios (1988). La pensée symbolique de saint Ephrem le Syrien.
Bibliothèque de l'Université Saint Esprit XVI. Kaslik, Lebanon.
Brock, Sebastian P (1985). The luminous eye: the spiritual world vision of
Saint Ephrem. Cistercian Publications. ISBN 0-87907-624-0.
Brock, Sebastian (trans) (1990). Hymns on paradise: St. Ephrem the Syrian.
St Vladimir's Seminary Press, Crestwood, New York. ISBN 0-88141-076-4.
den Biesen, Kees (2002). Bibliography of Ephrem the Syrian. Self-published,
Giove in Umbria. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
den Biesen, Kees (2006). Simple and Bold: Ephrem's Art of Symbolic Thought.
Gorgias Press, Piscataway, New Jersey. ISBN 1-59333-397-8.
Griffith, Sidney H (1997). Faith adoring the mystery: reading the Bible with
St. Ephraem the Syrian. Marquette University Press, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Matthews, Jr., Edward G. and Joseph P. Amar (trans), Kathleen McVey (ed)
(1994). Saint Ephrem the Syrian: selected prose works. Catholic University
of America Press. ISBN 0-8132-0091-1.
McVey, Kathleen E (trans) (1989). Ephrem the Syrian: hymns. Paulist Press.
Mourachian, Mark. "Hymns Against Heresies: Comments on St. Ephrem the
Syrian". Sophia, 17, No. 2, Winter 2007. ISSN 0194-7958.
Parry, Ken; David Melling (editors) (1999). The Blackwell Dictionary of
Eastern Christianity. Malden, MA.: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-631-23203-6.
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