« Apharsachites Aphraates Aphthartodocetae »


APHRAATES, a frɑ̄´tîz: The “Persian sage.” He is known as the author of twenty-two homilies, arranged according to the letters of the Syriac alphabet, and a treatise, De acino benedicto (Isa. lxv. 8), in Syriac. The first ten homilies were written in the years 336-337, the others in 344-345; the treatise in Aug., 345. The latter is mentioned in Armenian lists of the apocryphal books. In the life of Julianus Saba (P. Bedjan, Acta martyrum et sanctorum, vi., Paris, 1896, p. 386) it is said that Aphraates was a pupil of Julianus and that he died, according to some, at the age of 104 years. If this be true he may have been the Aphraates mentioned by Theodoret (Hist. eccl., iv. 22-23), who had an interview with Valens. The name occurs again in the Syriac martyrology of the year 411. Its form in modern Persian is Farhad. The name Jacobus seems to have been adopted by Aphraates as bishop of the monastery of Mar Mattai, near Mosul (cf. G. P. Badger, The Nestorians, i., London, 1852, p. 97).

With Ephraem Syrus, Aphraates may be called the first classic writer of the Syrian Church. His style is pure, and he shows deep knowledge of the Scriptures, with earnest zeal for the welfare of the Church. There is no trace of the christological controversies of Arius, a single polemical passage against Valentinians, Marcionites, and Manicheans, but many against the Jews, from whose traditions Aphraates draws richly (cf. S. Funk, Die haggadischen Elemente in Aphraates, Vienna 1891). He used the Diatessaron of Tatian instead of the single Gospels. The sixth homily shows that monks and eremites were already organized in his time and place. His psychology is peculiar, especially his doctrine of the sleep of the soul. His days are Jan. 29 (Greek calendar) and Apr. 7.

Gennadius of Marseilles, in his De viris illustribus (c. 495), confounded Aphraates with Jacob of Nisibis, under whose name nineteen of the homilies were published in an Armenian translation by N. Antonelli (Rome, 1756). George, bishop of the Arabians, in a letter about 714 (P. de Lagarde, Analecta Syriaca, Leipsic, 1858; German transl. by V. Ryssel, ib. 1891), is better informed. The Syriac original was first made accessible by W. Wright (The Homilies of Aphraates, the Persian Sage, i., text, London, 1869; the translation did not appear). With Latin translation the homilies are in Patrologia Syriaca, i. (Paris, 1894). There is a German translation by G. Bert (TU, iii. 3, Leipsic, 1888), and an English translation of selections in NPNF, 2d ser., vol. xiii.

E. Nestle.

Bibliography: J. B. F. Sasse, Prolegomena in Aphraatis sermones, Leipsic, 1878; J. Forget, De vita et scriptis Aphraatis, Louvain, 1882; W. Wright, A Short History of Syriac Literature, London, 1894; and the preface to Wright’s ed. of the Homilies; F. C. Burkitt, Early Eastern Christianity, pp. 132-140, London, 1904.

« Apharsachites Aphraates Aphthartodocetae »


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