The theological writings are less valuable for their contributions to theology than for their reference to the heresies of the time. In the biography it appears that no less than nine arose in Edessa during his times and that he combated them all, among them the heresies of Marcion, Mani, and Bardesanes. The type of his theology is best seen in his "Sermon on our Lord" (in T. J. Lamy, i. 145-274; Eng. transl. in NPNF, 2d ser., xiii. 305-330). This is a treatise on the incarnation; but the language is highly figurative and a clear idea of Ephraem's
Ephraem was not the founder of a school of theology or exegesis like that of Antioch. It appears that his works were translated into Greek, since Sozomen states that they lose little by being so rendered. Jerome read but one in the Greek, that on the Holy Ghost. Burkitt criticizes Ephraem's theology as giving neither the historical Christ, nor the Christianity of the early Church, nor yet the clearly defined doctrine of post-Nicene times, and as failing in the point of intellectual seriousness.
Bibliography: The chief edition of the "Works," begun by Peter Mobarek (Benedict) and finished by J. S. A. Assemani, was published, 6 vols., Rome, 1732-48. Other editions are: Opera selecta, ed. J. J. Overbeck, Oxford, 1885; Carmina Nisibena, ed. G. Bickell, Leipsic, 1866; Hymni et Sermones, ed. T. J. Lamy, 3 vols., Mechlin, 1882-86; "History of Joseph," Paris, 1891; fragments of the "Commentary on the Diatessaron," ed. J. R. Harris, London, 1895. Transl. into Germ. are of selected works by P. Zingerle, 6 vols., Innsbruck, 1831-45, and by F. X. Reithmeyer, in Bibliothek der Kirchanväter, Kempten, 1809. Of Eng. transl. may be mentioned: Select Works, by J. B. Morris, Oxford, 1847; Repentance of Nineveh, and Select Metrical Hymns and Homilies, by H. Burgess, 3 vols., London, 1853; NPNF, 2d ser., xiii. 167-341. Eng. transls. of ten of his hymns are in B. Pick, Hymns and Poetry of the Eastern Church, New York, 1908.
The sources for a life are: the Encomium of Ephraem by Gregory of Nysss (best); and the briefer notices in Sozomen, Hist. eccl., iii. 16; Theodoret, Hist. eccl., ii. 30, iv. 29; Jerome, De vir. ill., 115. The best discussion of the life in Eng. is in NPNF, 2d ser., xiii. 119-146; valuable, however, is DCB, ii. 136-144. Consult further: J. F. Gaab, in Memorabilien, ii. 136 sqq., cf. i. 65 sqq., Leipsic, 1791-96; J. Alsleben, Das Leben des Ephraem der Syrers, Berlin, 1853; C. Ferry, S. Éphrem poète, Paris 1877; ICL, iv. 677-682; Schaff, Christian Church, iii. 926-. 933.
On the writings consult: J. S. Assemani, Bibliotheca oriantalis, i. 59 sqq., Rome, 1719; C. van Lengerke, Commentatio critica d. S. Ephræmo Syro, Halle, 1828; idem, De Ephræmi . . . arte hermeneutica, Königsberg, 1831; A. Haase, S. Ephræmi Syri theologia, Halle, 1869; Moesinger, Evangelii concordantis expositio, Venice, 1876; E. A. W. Budge, On a Fragment of a Coptic Version of S. Ephraim . . . on the Transfiguration, London, 1887; Ephræmi Syri commentarii in epistolas Pauli, Venice, 1893; H. Grimme, Der Strophenbau in den Gedichten Ephræms des Syrers, Freiburg, 1893; T. J. Lamy, L'Exégèese en l'orient au quatrième siècle, iv. 465-468, Paris, 1893; J. Gwynn, The Apocalypse of St. John, pp. cii.-ciii., Dublin, 1894; W. Wright, Short Hist. of Syriac Literature , London 1894: R. Duval, La Litibratura arambsnne, Paris, 1895; H. Haring, Die Lehra van der Predipl, Berlin, 1897; NPNF, xiii.
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