EPHRAEM (EPHREM) SYRUS ("Ephraim the Syrian"; Syriac 'Aphrern): Theologian, exegete, and homiliat; b. at or near Nisibis, in the beginning of the fourth century; d. probably near Edessa, possibly in June, 373, but the dates 378 and 379 are also given. His father is said to have been the priest of a deity or idol named Abnil or Abizal destroyed by Justinian. He was converted to Christianity by Bishop Jacob of Nisibis, with whom he is said to have attended the Council of Nica'a. He lived at Niaibis until 363, when he took up his residence near Edeasa as an anchorite.


He is said to have visited Basil of Cęsarea, to have been ordained deacon by him, and to have declined further ecclesiastical advancement. He went to Egypt and there remained for eight years, preaching to the monks in their own language. Shortly before his death he appeared as a public benefactor in the midst of a famine by opening a hospital for the sick in the monastery. His will forbade his burial in a church, and directed that he should be wrapped in his old cloak and laid in the common cemetery (cf. T. J. Lamy in Compte rendu du IV. congrès scientifique des Catholiques, Freiburg in Switzerland, 1898, and R. Duval, in JA, 1901, Sept.-Oct., pp. 234-319). According to the Chronicle of Edessa his death occurred in June, 373; Jerome places his death under the emperor Valens. If the former date be correct, the encomium upon Basil (d. Jan. 1, 379), ascribed to Ephraem, can not be by him. All ecclesiastical calendars celebrate him, the Latin on Feb. 1, the Greek and Syriac on Jan. 28, the Coptic on 14 Epipi (July). At present his grave is shown in the Armenian cloister Dar Serkis west of Edessa (cf. C. E. Sachau, Reise in Syrien, Leipsic, 1883, p. 202).

Exegetaical Works.

The works of Ephraem were very numerous, according to Sozomen some 3,000,000 stichoi, a great part of which consisted of sermons and lectures. They do not easily separate into classes, though a provisional division is into exegetical, dogmatic-polemic, and poetical. In the latter branch he is credited with the invention of the "Controversial Hymn," called by Burkitt a "melancholy addition." From the standpoint of the intrinsic worth of the writings it is difficult to explain the great repute of this Father. The value consists in the fact that the great number of the productions and their excellent preservation afford many means of insight into the life and thought of the Church of his period. But Ephraem was prolix and repetitious, so that there is really little to reward the student for examination of his work. The difficulty in securing data is enhanced by the fact that many works ascribed to him are not his, and much of the work done upon Ephraem has to be done over in the light of better information, especially that gained from the Armenian version of his writings. Thus the examination of the New Testament quotations of Ephraem by F. H. Woods (Studia biblica et ecclesiastica, vol. iii., Oxford, 1891) was revised by F. C. Burkitt (Ephraim's Quotations from the Gospel, in TS, vii. 2, 1901). In his exegetical work upon the Gospels his basis was Tatian's Diatessaron (cf. J. H. Hill, Dissertation on the Gospel Commentary of S. Ephraem the Syrian, Edinburgh, 1896). That in his work on the Acts he used a "Western" text has been shown by J. R. Harris (Four Lectures on the Western Text, Cambridge, 1894, pp. 23 sqq.). His Commentary upon Zechariah has been studied by Lamy (Revue biblique, 1897). Burkitt asserts that Revelation is not referred to in Ephraem's exegetical works.


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