Ephraim, Apapphrat 29
29 (1) The Nisibene Hymns, (2) The Hymns of the Nativity, (3) The Hymns for the Epiphany, (4) Three Homilies (i., On our Lord; ii., On Reproof and Repentance; iii., On the Sinful Woman).
Of (2) the Nativity Hymns, the first thirteen are reprinted from the version by the Rex. J. B. Morris (Oxford, 1847), made from the Roman Edition of the Syriac Works of Ephraim. The rest of the series as translated (six64 in number, making nineteen in all) were unknown when that edition was completed in 1743. These latter, and also (3) the Epiphany Hymns (with one exception)65 have since come to light in the Nitrian collection of the British Museum, and were printed by Professor Lamy in his St. Ephraim (Tom. 1, cc. 1–144; Tom. II., cc. 427–504), 1882–1889. In the same edition (Tom. I., cc. 145–274; 311–338) were first printed (4) the three Homilies.66 Our translations of these follow Lamy’s text, with here and there a slight variation where errors seem to exist. These two series of Hymns belong to the ecclesiastical class: their titles appropriate them to two great Festivals of the Church, and portions of these are embodied in Syriac Rituals still in use. Of the two Homilies, the former was written for the Feast of the Epiphany, like the Hymns which precede it.
The Nisibene Hymns (1) are translated from the text as first printed by Dr. Bickell (1866), whose edition, like that of Dr. Lamy, rests upon mss. of the Nitrian collection.67 They also were unknown to the Roman editors of the last century, and to the English translator of 1847; and they have not till now appeared in English. The series when complete consisted of 77 Hymns. Of these the first division (I.-XXXIV). treat of the fortunes of the Church in Nisibis, Carrhena [Haran], and an unnamed city (probably Edessa).68 The remainder (XXXV. to end) deal with the topics of Death and the Resurrection. The present selection comprises 46 of these, namely:—of the first division, the first 21, those which relate to Nisibis and which are the Nisibene Hymns proper; of the second division, two series—one of 8 hymns (XXXV.-XLII). in which Death and Satan hold monologue or dialogue,—the other of 17 (LII.-LXVIII)., similar in character, but with Man as a third interlocutor.
30 Of the compositions contained in this volume, none yields internal evidence of its date, except the Nisibene Hymns of the first division. Hymns XXXV.-XLII. (not included here), apparently belong to the later (or Edessene) period of Ephraim’s life, and to the reign of Valens,—i.e., they are later than the year 363. The 21 Hymns which stand first in our collection may confidently be assigned to the year of the third siege (350) and the thirteen following years. Hymn I. was indubitably composed while the siege was still urgent; Hymns I. and III. immediately after the deliverance; Hymns IV.-XII. deal with the fortunes of the city and country in a troubled time of invasion that succeeded; the rest (XIII.-XXI). treat of the four successive Bishops of Nisibis under whom Ephraim lived—Jacob, Babu, Valgesh, and Abraham. The last-named is not elsewhere recorded except by Elias of Nisibis, but the death of Valgesh is known to have occurred in 361.69 The Hymns therefore which celebrate the accession of Abraham to the See (XVII.-XXI). must be placed in the interval, 361–363, the latter being the year when Ephraim with all the Christian population of the city was driven out by Sapor. Hymns XIII.-XVI., being written while Valgesh was Bishop—for they compare him with his two predecessors—fall into the interval between the year of the siege (350) which they speak of as past,—and the year of the death of Valgesh (361). Bickell assigns IV.-XII. to the months of Sapor’s invasion in 359; XIII.-XVI. to 358 and 359; XVII.-XXI. to 363, in the short space between Julian’s death and the surrender of Nisibis.
It is probable that most of his Hymns that are definitely controversial belong, like most of his controversial writings, to the years of his later life, at Edessa. And as we have seen, the earliest of them that can be confidently dated. is not earlier than 350. But it would be hasty to conclude that he had composed no Hymns before that date, and that in the Nisibene Hymns of the siege we have the first fruits of the vine of his vision. In 350 he must have been over forty—perhaps over fifty years of age; and it is highly improbable that a fertility which proved to be so abundant, did not begin to manifest itself at a much earlier age; or that a literary offspring of such bulk and importance was all produced in the last five and twenty years of a long life. The earlier authorities concerning his life give no definite information on this head; and the Syriac Life is vague in its statements and untrustworthy in its chronology. The account given of Barhebraeus, a well-informed but very late writer (thirteenth century), can hardly be accepted as embodying any genuine tradition, but has probability in its favor:—”From the time of the Nicene Council (he writes70 ), Ephraim began to write canticles and hymns against the heresies of his time,”—for few of his hymns are without a polemic spirit, though (as has been said) those that are purely controversial seem to be of a later period. A much later author indeed, Georgius “Bishop of the Arabians” (writing in 714) warns us that there is no evidence to assign any of Ephraim’s writings to the twenty years’ interval between the Nicene Council and the year 345—”especially (he adds) to the years before 337.”71 This writer, however, is here arguing in support of the claim of Aphrahat to be an independent author, against those who regarded him as a disciple of Ephraim; and he rests his case on the ground that whereas the Demonstrations of Aphrahat are (as we shall see presently) dated from 337 to 345, no composition of Ephraim’s can be shown to have been written so early. And it must be admitted that the earliest date (as above noted) that can be fixed with certainty for any of Ephraim’s innumerable productions in 350,—thirteen years later than Aphrahat’s earlier Demonstrations. Against this is to be set the tradition of Ephraim’s presence at Nicaea, implying as it does that even in 325 he had made himself a notable person,-and the probability that one who has left such ample proof of the copiousness of his literary gift, must have begun to exercise it before a date at which he would have passed his thirtieth year (supposing his birth to have been in 306), or even have entered middle life (if we place it at the beginning of the century). The two writers were unquestionably contemporary, and as yet no sufficient data have been discovered to determine to which of them seniority belongs.
31 1). Name of Author of Demonstrations long Unknown.—The author of the Demonstrations, eight of which appear (for the first time in an English version) in the present volume, has a singular literary history. By nationality a Persian, in an age when Zoroastrianism was the religion of Persia, he wrote in Syriac as a Christian theologian. His writings, now known to us as the works of Aphrahat, were remembered, cited, translated, and transcribed for at least two centuries after his death; but his proper name seems to have been for a time forgotten, so that in the mss. of the fifth and sixth centuries the Demonstrations are described as composed by “the Persian Sage,” or “Mar Jacob the Persian Sage;” and a writer of the eighth century, who had made a minute study of these writings and ascertained their date, admits that he has been unable to find out “who or what he was, his rank in the Church, his name or abode.” Not only so, but the name Jacob assigned (rightly or wrongly) to him has led to a confusion of identity. His works have been ascribed for many hundred years—from a date not long after their composition down to quite recent times, to an earlier Jacob, the famous and saintly Bishop of Nisibis in the days of Constantine the Great. It is not until the tenth century that the true name of “the Persian Sage” emerges to light as Aphrahat, by which he is unhesitatingly designated by several well informed and accurate authorities of that and the three succeeding centuries. and under which he is known to modern scholars.
2). Their Subjects, and Arrangement.—The Demonstrations are twenty-two in number, after the number of the letters of the Syriac alphabet, each of them beginning with the letter to which it corresponds in order. The first ten form a group by themselves, and are somewhat earlier in date than those which follow: they deal with Christian graces, hopes, and duties, as appears from their titles:—”Concerning Faith, Charity, Fasting, Prayer, Wars, Monks, Penitents, the Resurrection, Humility, Pastors.” Of those that compose the later group, three relate to the Jews (“Concerning Circumcision, the Passover, the Sabbath”); followed by one described as “Hortatory,” which seems to be a letter of rebuke addressed by Aphrahat, on behalf of a Synod of Bishops, to the clergy and people of Seleucia and Ctesiphon; after which the Jewish series is resumed in five discourses, “Concerning Divers Meals, The Call of the Gentiles, Jesus the Messiah, Virginity, the Dispersion of Israel.” The three last are of the same general character as the first ten,—”Concerning Almsgiving, Persecution, Death, and the Latter Times.” To this collection is subjoined a twenty-third Demonstration, supplementary to the rest, “Concerning the Grape,” under which title is signified the blessing transmitted from the beginning through Christ, in allusion to the words of Isaiah, “As the grape72 is found in the cluster and one saith, Destroy it not” (lxv. 8). This treatise embodies a chronological disquisition of some importance.
3). Dates of Composition.—Of the dates at which they were written, these discourses supply conclusive evidence. At the end of section 5 of Demonstr. V. (Concerning Wars), the author reckons the years from the era of Alexander (b.c. 311) to the time of his writing as 648. He wrote therefore in a.d. 337—the year of the death of Constantine the Great). Demonst. XIV. is formally dated in its last section, “in the month Shebat. in the year 655 (that ). More fully, in closing the alphabetic series (XXII. 25) he informs us that the above dates apply to the two groups—the first ten being written in 337; the twelve that follow, in 344. Finally, the supplementary discourse “Concerning the Grape” was written (as stated, XXIII. 69) in July, 345. Thus the entire work was completed within nine years,—five years before the middle of the fourth century,—before the composition of the earliest work of Ephraim of which the date can be determined with certainty.
4). Extent and Limits of their Circulation.—These Demonstrations, though they fell far short of attaining the unbounded popularity which was the lot of the countless Hymns and Homilies of Ephraim, appear to have won for themselves a recognized place in Syriac literature. It is true that, in striking contrast with the overwhelming numbers of mss. containing portions, great or small, of Ephraim’s works, which are to be met with in nearly every collection of Syriac written remains, one complete and two incomplete copies are all that have reached us of this series of twenty-three treatises; and extracts or quotations from them very rarely occur. Yet it is clear that compositions which were thought worthy at an early date of translation into at least one foreign tongue, must have had some considerable reputation in the country of their origin; and it may be presumed that these two or three mss. (of the fifth and sixth centuries), are the survivors of a fairly large number of which the majority have perished.
The Armenian translation is probably the earliest evidence now extant of the circulation (though under a wrong ascription of authorship) of the Demonstrations, of which it comprises nineteen. Armenian scholars seem to agree in the belief that it was made in the fifth century, before its original was more than a hundred years in being. An Ethiopic translation of the discourse “On Wars” is extant, but there is no evidence that it formed part of a version extending to all or any of the remaining twenty-two, nor is its date even approximately determinable.
The manuscript evidence hardly reaches so far back as that of the Armenian version. The oldest extant ms. of these discourses (Add. 17182 of the British Museum) contains the first ten, and is dated 474. With it is bound up (under the same number) a second, dated 512, containing the remaining thirteen. A third (Add. 14619) of the sixth century likewise, exhibits the whole series. A fourth (Orient, 1017), more recent by eight centuries, will be mentioned farther on. Of the three early mss., the first designates the author as “the Persian Sage” merely, as does also the third: the second prefixes his name as “Mar Jacob the Persian Sage.”
Among Syriac authors, the first to show an acquaintance with these treatises, at a date prior to that of the earliest of these Miss., is Isaac of Antioch, known as “the Great,” whose literary activity belongs to the first half of the fifth century. In his works passages have been pointed out which are evidently borrowed with slight change from the Demonstrations,—especially from that Concerning Fasting, and (though less distinctly) from that Concerning Faith. The imitation, however, is tacit, and Isaac nowhere names the work (or its author) whence he derived the illustrations and even the expressions he uses in treating of these topics.
Before the close of the same century, we find evidence that they were known—by repute, though apparently no farther—to a Latin writer of Western Europe, Gennadius of Marseilles, the continuator of St. Jerome’s work De Viris Illustribus, who wrote about the year 495. Though mistaken (as will presently be shown) about their parentage, and incorrectly informed as to their number (which he supposes to be twenty-six), Gennadius states their titles with such an approach to accuracy, as to leave no room for doubt that the discourses he describes are those of which we now treat. He shows himself aware that they are in Syriac, but gives no hint that he has ever seen them, or that he is able to read them).
In the seventh century, or (however) early in the eighth, tokens appear of a revival of interest in them. Georgius, “Bishop of the Arabs,”73 a Jacobite prelate, having been applied to by one Joshua an anchorite for information concerning the “Epistles” (as he styles them) of “the Persian Sage” and their authorship, wrote (in Syriac) in the year 714 a very full and elaborate reply, in which he cites at length passages from several of them, including those (above referred to) in which the dates of writing are stated with precision,—and be infers from these dates, that the author, of whose name he professes himself to be ignorant, wrote too early to be a disciple of Ephraim. To this inference we may safely assent, even though we hold that Ephraim wrote and taught earlier in the century than Georgius endeavours to place him. The point to be noted is, that this learned and acute writer, though he had by careful study made himself familiar with the Demonstrations, neither knows, nor can guess at, the name of their author, nor can he record any tradition concerning his identity. He can only tell what he has learned from their contents, that they were written from 337 to 345, by one who was a monk, and a cleric; and that they were characterized by certain peculiarities of doctrine.
1 The former in the Roman edition, Opera Syr., Tom. III, p.xxiii; the latter in Lamy’s Hymni et Sermones, Tom. II.
2 Of these, the one, which is ascribed to Amphilochius, is perhaps the basis on which the longer Syriac Life was constructed.
3 i.e., Dayspring.
4 Eze. 3,1
5 Not elsewhere named: perhaps we ought to read Beth-Garme; for which see B.O. II., De Monophysitis, s.v.
6 (So the Paris text: the Vatican has “Origen.” The person meant is probably the Eugenius who came from Egypt with 70 disciples to Nisibis, to introduce the ascetic life into that region, and lived there from the time of the consecration of St. Jacob till the surrender in 363. His life is related in the inedited ms. Ad’d. 12174 (Lives of Saints), of the British Museum.
7 This city lay quite out of the region of the Nitrian monasteries. Possibly In the original form of this biography, the “Enaton” (i.e. the Ninth District) of Alexandria was named as the place of Ephraim’s sojourn and subsequent transcribers changed the word into Antino.
8 As represented by Gregory Ephraim was a very Democritus among saints:“As with all men to breathe is a natural function unceasing in exercise, so with Ephraim was it to weep. There was no day, no night, no hour, no moment however brief, in which his eyes were not wakeful and filled with tears, while he bewailed the faults and follies, now of his own life, now of mankind. By groans he made a channel for the streams of his eyes or rather, by the outflow of the eyes he looked his groans.… There was no interval of time between them, groans succeeding to tears and they again to groans, as in a sort of circle; so that it was impossible to distinguish which made the beginning and which was the cause of the other. Any one who makes acquaintance with his writings will perceive this characteristic; for he will be found lamenting not only in his treatises on penitence, or morals, or right conduct, but even in his panegyrics, in which it is the habit of most writers to show an aspect of rejoicing. But he was every where the same, and abounded perpetually in this gift of compunction.”
9 Isai. 30,27
10 Casarae, the see of Basil, lay far from the sea, in the heart of the inland province of Cappadocia. The Caesarea of the Act of the Apostles (Stratonis), the metropolis of Palestine was a seaport.
11 The feast of St. Mamas (a Cappadocian martyr) falls in August, not in January. A sermon of St. Basil for that feast is extant (Hom. XXIII).. Probably the author of this History knew that sermon, and was thus led to mention the commemoration here, carelessly disregarding the time of year.
12 To the pseudo-Amphilochius.
13 Paraenesis 26,II (Opera Syr)., Tom. III. p. 467. The word, however, is perhaps not to be taken literally.
14 Opera Syriaca, Tom. I., p. 8.
15 In Syriac, Bardaisan (son of Daisan), so called from his birthplace beside the river above mentioned.
16 See Bickell, Carmina Nisibena, p. 101.
17 Opera Syriaca, Tom. II., p. 554, see also Homily I.
18 The Seven Aeons (or Beings) of Bardesan’s heresy; see Opp. Syr. II., p. 550.
19 The heretic Apollinaris seems to have been a younger man than Ephraim, whom he survived by some years. Possibly his father, the elder Apollinaris, is here intended. But he is not recorded as having taught heresy.
20 To this church were translated the bones of St. Thomas the Apostle, from his burial place in India, in the time of Eulogius the successor of Barses (378–387),—as we learn from Barhebr(us, Chronicon Eccles. I. 21 (p.65 of Abbeloos and Lamy’s edition). But the above narrative, as confirmed by Socrates (IV. 18), shows that it had been built and was held in special reverence before that. It is the church at which our History places the healing of the paralytic (above). Sozomen’s account (VI. 17) in the main agrees; also Theodoret’s (lV. 17).
21 Baronius, Annales, IV. p. 308. The Vatican Life reads Julian for Valens in this narrative, thus introducing inexplicable preplexity into the chronology. Julian died before Ephraim became a resident of Edessa.
22 Printed in Overbeck’s Ephraemi S. Opera Selecta, p. 137; also in the (Roman) Opera Graeca, at the end of Tom. II., p. 395.
23 St. Matth. 27,46.
24 i.e., as a relic.
25 The allusion is to the legend that Abgar, King of Edessa, hearing the fame of the Lord Jesus, sent a letter inviting him to his city, and received in reply a letter from Him conveying His blessing, and a promise to send a disciple to teach him and his people. This promise was afterwards fulfilled by the mission of Thaddeus (Addae) to Edessa. (Eusebius, Hist.Eccl. I. 13).
26 The Greek version has “may heal.” The Syriac may be brought to agree with this, by changing t into r in the verb used.
27 The sect of Ophites.
28 See Opera Graeca, Tom. II., p.230; Ephraim Syr. Graece, p.365 Oxford edition).
29 There is no ground for supposing that Gregory could read Syriac. It follows therefore that some of Ephraim’s wntings must have been at a very early date translated into Greek; and that one of these was the Testament which Gregory refers to no less than five times in the Encomium.
30 This is related also in the Greek version of the Testament, but is an evident interpolation. It is not in the Syriac.
31 This has been pointed out by Dr. Payne Smith (Dict.of Christan Biography, Vol.II., p.137), who cites the passages here adduced, from Opp. Syr. II. 499; Opp. Gr. I.129.
32 This was first clearly established by Spanheim (Observationes in Julianum, pp. 183 ff., 188ff.; 1696) in part anticipated by Petave (Petavius) and de Valois (Valesius). He has been followed in this by nearly all historians, including Gibbon (Decline and Fall. chap. xviii)
33 Juliani Orationes, ed. Spanheim (1666), Orat. II., pp.62 ff .; see also pp.26 ff (Orat. I.).
34 The Life gives but seventy days as the whole duration of the siege—a period quite insufficient for the construction of the embankment.
35 Ephraim seems to convey that Sapor, when repulsed, at once withdrew : Julian represents his withdrawal as gradual. The former probably has in view the raising of the siege; the latter, the retreat from the invaded territory.
36 Compare Sachau’s description, Reise, pp. 390, 391.
37 That Valgesh is the “third” Bishop here meant, appears by comparison with Hymn XVII. 2, where the three are named, Jacob, Babu (not elsewhere mentioned), and Valgesh.
38 (So (e.g.) Baronius, Annales (s. q. 338); Ada Sanctorumi, Febr. (1P 51). A few quite recent writers follow these. This error of Theodoret thus ascribing to the first siege the events which belong to the history of the third, is easily accounted for. His narrative of the siege and the breaching of the walls, the apparition, and St. Jacob’s prayer answered by the plague of mosquitoes, originally appeared in his earlier work, the Religious History—a collection of lives of miracle-working saints of whom St. Jacob stands first—from which (as he himself notes) he has transferred it with little change, to his Ecclesiastical History. As the biographer of this, the greatest Bishop of Nisibis, Theodoret would naturally associate with his name all that history or tradition reported of Divine protection extended to the city in her perils—especially in those of her last and most signal siege which ended in her most signal deliverance. He probably knew that a siege of Nisibis had occurred in St. Jacob’s time, and would readily overlook the brief interval of twelve years by which the saint’s death preceded the later siege.
One of the Nisibene Hymns (XIII. 18, 19, 21) suggests a further explanation how this third siege came to be attached to the legend of St. Jacob. His body was treasured reverently in the city, and to its presence her deliverance was attributed. Thus, he was still (in Ephraim’s words) “the fountain within her,” “the fruit in her bosom,” “the body laid within her that became for her a wall without.” The traditions of that dead presence in the last siege, and of his living presence in the first, would soon blend together; and the expression of pious gratitude for the protection ascribed by the besieged of 350 to the virtue of his remains, would be mistaken as evidence that the man himself was among them to help them by his prayers and exhortations in the struggle by which the fall of their city was so narrowly averted.
39 In the Chronicle, we read that Sapor saw, in the daytime, “a man running to and fro on the walls,” in the likeness of the Emperor; but again, we are told of “the angel that appeared.” In Theodoret’s narratives the apparition wears the royal “purple and diadem,” and is described as “divine” (Hist. Relig)., and “incorporeal” (Hist. Eccles).. In the Chronography, “an angel stands on the tower, in shining raiment, holding by the hand the Emperor Constantius”; a duplication of the vision which seemingly arose from a misunderstanding of the Chronicle.
That Constantius was not in Nisibis during this siege, is a point on which all authorities are agreed. Jilian, while lavishing on the Emperor unmeasured praises for the repulse of Sapor, attributes it not to his personal presence, but to his foresight in previous preparations made a year before. He is known, however, to have sojourned in the city in May, 345,—see Cod Theodosianus, (XI. 7, 5) for a law issued thence by him on the 12th of that month (Lex. 5 de exactionibuss).
40 The Nisibene Hymns, only recovered some fifty years ago from the Nitrian Monastery of the Theotokos, and first printed in 1866, yielding as they do authoritative and contemporary confirmation of the accounts of the siege given by Julian and by Valgesh, come in as decisive evidence to prove that the Chronicler of the seventh century and the Chronographer of the ninth had better fortune or better judgment in their choice of authorities than Theodoret in the fifth. It is, moreover, a signal instance of the true historical instinct that guided Gibbon in his great work, that in relating this history (ch. xviii)., he followed Julian and the Chronicle, and refused to he misled (as our biographer was) by Theodoret—except as regards St. Jacob whom he supposed to have been still Bishop in 350.
The first to point out this error as to St. Jacob, was Valesius in his note on the passage in Theodoret (H. E. II.30), as above. He remarked that “the Alexandrine (Paschal) Chronicle makes Vologeses (Valgesh), not Jacob, Bishop of Nisibis in 350.” It was replied (and with justice) that the Chronicle, though it records the siege, and cites the Epistle of Valgesh, Bishop of the city, does not say that he was Bishop at the time of the siege. Another Chronicle, the Edessene (a relic of the sixth century), first printed by Assemani in 1719 (Biblioth. Orient. I., pp.388 ff). determines 338 as the date of Jacob’s death, and 361 as that of Valgesh. Our Nisibene Hymns (see above,note 4) make it plain that Valgesh was bishop in 350, as Valesius rightly (though on insufficient grounds) laid down.
41 The shorter Syriac Life agrees in affirming the fact of his visit to Egypt, but says nothing of its duration. No other authority, earlier or contemporary, hints at it.
42 Assemani, Biblioth Orient., I., p.46, note 1.
43 It is mentioned by Huntington (afterwards Provost of Trinity College, Dublin, and finally Bishop of Raphoe) who visited the place, 1678–9 (see (his Epistolae, XXXIX., p. 60) : again by J. S. Assemani in 1715 (see (reference in note 6). More recent visitors (Lord de la Zouche in 1837, and Archdeacon Tattam in 1839) do not speak of it.
Of the Nitrian monasteries (reputed to have once numbered fifty, or even more), the principal one, that of the Theotokos, whence the libraries of the Vatican and of the British museum have derived their most precious acquisitions of Syriac mss., belongs to the Syrian Jacobites, whose Church has always been in full communion with that of the Copts. A second belongs to the Copts; a third to the Greeks. The fourth (that of St. Pesöes) does not appear to be specially appropriated, but to be mainly Coptic, though (as appears above) not to the exclusion of Syrians.
44 See Professor Lamy’s edition of Ephraim, II., coll. 94ff, for the authorities on this point,—of which the chief are:—The Edessene Chronicle (sixth century) and Jacob of Edessa (seventh century—cited bv Elias of Nisibis), both of whom give 373 as the date, as does also the early Chronicle contained in the “Book of the Caliphs.” Jerome (De Viris. Illustr. cxv). merely says that Ephraim died in the reign of Valens,—i. e. not later than 378, and therefore before Basil.
45 Opp. Groee., II., 289 ff.
46 See Lamy as above, coll. 84 ff.
47 On the 9th, according to Chron., Edes. and the shorter Life; the Vatican Life says the 15th; the Book of the Caliphs (see (Land’s Anecdota, Tom. 1P 15 [Syr. text]) and most other authorities, the 18th ; Dionysius, in his Chronicle, the 19th (ap. Assemani, B. O. II., p.54).
48 It is to be regretted that neither the Parisian Life, nor the Nisibene Hymns, was before the writer of the article Ephraim in Smith and Wace’s Dictionary of Christian Biography. The former would have warned him from being misled by the Vatican Life into the error of ascribing to Julian the persecution under Valens; the latter would have shown him that both versions of the Life confuse the first siege of Nisibis with the third.
49 The passage is as follows: “Ephraim was a Syrian by birth. His father was of Nisibis, and his mother of Amid. And his father was priest in Nisibis of an idol named Abizal, which afterwards the victorious Emperor Jovian broke. He [or it, scil., the idol] was in the days of the victorious Emperor Constantine, true believer. But his father had this famous son, of whom is our narrative.” The meaning may be that the idol was suffered to exist during Constantine’s reign and after, till Jovian destroyed it:but it is now natural to understand it, as above, of Ephraim’s father. The Vatican editor seems to have misunderstood his original, which the Parisian transcriber has preserved faithfully,—and to have altered it into accordance with his misunderstanding, by recasting the passage and substituting “was born” for “was.”
50 In Migre’s Patrologia Graeca, CXVI I., p. 254.
51 I., 23 (Abbeloos and Lamy’s edition).
52 Gregory Barhebr. (Chron. Eccles., II., 10) mentions, but doubtfully, a tradition that Ephraim wrote a letter circ. 334 in which he took the part of Papas, the Catholicus, against “the Bishops of the East” who accused him of neglect and misconduct. If this be accepted, it is additional evidence for the early date of Ephraim’s birth.
53 This passage is mistranslated in the Latin version of the Encomium, by P. F. Linus of Verona (in his Divina S. Ephraem Opera, Dillingen, 1562), from whom it has been borrowed by Gerard Voss for his Latin version of Ephraim (Cologne. 1603), and by the editors of Gregory’s Works.
54 Not including Ruth, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther. It is not known whether he commented on Ecclesiastes and Canticles, or on the deutero-canonical books (commonly called “Apocrypha”).
55 Lamy has supplied the Commentaries on Jonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, and Haggai, with part of Isaiah and Lamentation—which was wanting from the Roman edition.
56 Both in the Armenian edition of Ephraim (Vol. II., Diatessaron; Vol. III., St. Paul), Venice, 1836: also in Latin,—the Diatessaron, in 1876; St. Paul 1893.
57 Of these the most complete copy is in ms. B. 5.18, Trinity College, Dublin (formerly the property of Archbishop Ussher), which has been used by Professor Lamy in his edition of three homilies (Tom. III. of His Ephraim, 1889)..
58 This remarkable distinction dates from the fourth century; it is noticed by St. Jerome (De Viris Ill., CXV)., writing within twenty years after Ephraim’s death.
59 St. Hilary of Poitiers (d.368) is reputed (see (Isidore of Seville, De Off Eccl). the earliest writer of Latin Hymns, and some extant Hymns are ascribed to him. But St. Augustine tells us (Confess. IX. 7) that at Milan hymns were first used, “after the manner of the Eastern Church,” in the time when the Empress Justina was persecuting St. Ambrose (386).
60 Metrical Hymns of Ephraim, 1853.
61 Hymns of the Holy Eastern Church, pp.34, 35, 49 (1870). Note the contrast between the wide acceptance of Ephraim’s Hymns, through the East, and the scanty survival of those of his contemporary, in the West.
62 A few exceptional Greek hymns may be pointed out of earlier date (e.g., that mentioned by St. Basil, De Spiritu S., XXIX; but the statement above made is in the main accurate. Anatolius, Patriarch of Constantinople (449–458) seems to have been the first to devote himself to the composition of hymns of the type above described. See Neale (as above).
63 Probably the earliest extant Syriac poem is the Hymn of the Soul (printed by Dr. Wright in Apocryphal Acts, p.174; also by Mr. Bevan in Texts and Studies, V. 3). Its metre, though less regular, is substantially the seven-syllabled of Ephraim. Whether Bardesan (or Harnionius) wrote in metres like those of Ephraim has been questioned; but if it is true that Ephraim’s hymns were adapted by him to the tunes of Harmonius, it seems to follow that his metres were those of the hymns to which those tunes belonged.
64 From the Nitrian ms., 14506
65 Hymns 1–14 from mss., 14506, 14572; No.15 from the Maronite Breviary.
66 From mss. 14570, 14651, 17266; and a fragment from 14654 (printed in Tom. II., pp. xx-xiii)..
67 mss. 14572, 17141 chiefly; with a few others of secondary value. Five Hymns are lost (viii. and xxii.-xxv)., and part of two others (ix. and xxvi)..
68 Note the mention of Edessa in Hymn xlii. 1.
69 Chron. Edess., as above ; Chronol. of Elias Nisib.
70 Ap. Assemani, B. O. I. 116.
71 Ap. Forget, De Vita Aphraatis, lntroductio, p.22; see also pp.121–126 of Forget’s Dissertation which follows; also p.5 of Introd.
72 (So in Peshitto; “unripe grape,” in LXX.; “new wine,” in A.V. and R.V., with the Hebrew; but the Latin Vulgate agrees with Peshitto.
73 See the text in Wright’s Aphraatis, pp. 29ff.; in Lagarde’sAnalecta Syr., pp. 108 ff or Forget (as above) pp. 8 ff.
5). Ascribed to Jacob of Nisibis.—Thus it appears that the series of discourses now known as the Demonstrations of Aphrahat, were imitated, and transcribed, and translated, into Armenian, and their titles cited by a Latin biographer, and their contents minutely investigated by an able critic, within the four centuries that followed the time of their composition; while through all that long period the name of Aphrahat had passed out of memory, and the “Persian Sage” simply, or else with the addition of an ambiguous and misleading name, “Jacob, the Persian Sage,” was the designation by which their author was usually known. As we have seen, the scribes of two mss., of the fifth and sixth centuries, and Georgius in the early eighth, confine themselves to the former; and the scribe of the sixth, thirty-eight years later than the earlier of the other two, uses the latter. Misled by it, the Armenian translator, and Gennadius in his biographical work, fell into the error of identifying the Jacob who wrote the Demonstrations with a namesake, the earlier and more conspicuous Jacob of Nisibis, of whom we have had occasion to speak in treating of the life of Ephraim. But of this celebrated personage no writings are recorded, nor was he a Persian, but a native of Nisibis (in his time a city of the Roman Empire), in 338, seven years before the completion of the treatises in question. As Jacob of Nisibis is thus too early to be the author of them, so, on the other hand, Jacob of Sarug, whom Assemani suggested in correcting the mistake of Gennadius, is too late; for he was not born till more than a century after the date of the last Demonstration.
6). Reappearance of the Name of Aphrahat.—It is not until some years after the mid-die of the tenth century, that the “Persian Sage” first appears under his proper name,—of which, though as it appears generally forgotten in the Syriac world of letters, a tradition had survived.—The Nestorian Bar-Bahlul (circ. 963) in his Syro-Arabic Lexicon, writes thus:—”Aphrahat [mentioned] in the Book of Paradise, is the Persian Sage, as they record.”—So too, in the eleventh century), Elias of Nisibis (Barsinaeus, d. 1049), embodies in his Chronography, a table, compiled from Demonstr. XXIII., of the chronography from the Creation to the “Era of Alexander” (b.c. 311), which he describes as “The years of the House of Adam, according to the opinion of Aphrahat, the Persian Sage.” —To the like effect, but with fuller information, the great light of the mediaeval Jacobite Church, Gregory Barhebraeus (d. 1286), in Part I. of his Ecclesiastical Chronicle, in enumerating the orthodox contemporaries of Athanasius, mentions, after Ephraim, “the Persian Sage who wrote the Book of Demonstrations;” and again in Part II., supplies his name under a slightly different form, as one who “was of note in the time of Papas the Catholicus,” “the Persian Sage by name Pharhad, of whom there are extant a book of admonition [al., admonitions] in Syriac, and twenty-two Epistles according to the letters of the alphabet.” Here we have not only the name and description of the personage in question, but a fairly accurate account of his works, under the titles by which the mss. describe them, “Epistles and Demonstrations;—and moreover a sufficient indication of his date, in agreement with that which the Demonstrations claim: for one who began to write in 337 must have lived in the closing years of the life of Papas (who died in 334), and in the earlier years of the life of Ephraim. So yet again, a generation later, the learned Nestorian prelate, Ebedjesu, in his Catalogue of Syrian ecclesiastical authors, writes, “Aphrahat, the Persian Sage, composed two volumes with Homilies that are according to the alphabet.” Here once more the name and designation are given unhesitatingly, and the division of the discourses into two groups is correctly noted; but the concluding words appear to distinguish these groups from the alphabetic Homilies. Either, therefore, we must take the preposition rendered “with” to mean “containing,”—or we must conclude that Ebedjesu’s knowledge of the work was at second-hand and incorrect. Finally, in a very late ms., dated 1364, is found the first or chronological part of Demonstration XXIII., headed as follows:—”The Demonstration concerning the Grape, of the Sage Aphrahat, who is Jacob, Bishop of Mar Mathai.” Here (though the prefix “Persian” is absent) we have the author’s title of “Sage”; and the identification of the “Aphrahat” of the later authorities with the “Jacob” of the earlier is not merely implied but expressly affirmed. Here, moreover, we have what seems to account for the twofold name. As author, he is Aphrahat; as Bishop, he is Jacob—the latter name having been no doubt assumed on his elevation to the Episcopate. Such changes of name, at consecration, which in later ages of the Syrian Church became customary, were no doubt exceptional in the earlier period of which we are treating. But the fact that Aphrahat was a Persian name, bestowed on him no doubt in childhood—when he was still (as will be shown presently) outside the Christian fold—a name which is supposed to signify “Chief” or “Prefect,” and which may have seemed unsuited to the humility of the sacred office—supplies a reason for the substitution in its stead of a name associated with sacred history, both of the Old and of the New Testament. Here finally we have the direct statement of what Georgius had justly inferred from the opening of Dem. XIV., that the writer was himself of the clergy, and in this Epistle writes as a cleric to clerics.
We have now brought together all the known authorities who yield information concerning this collection of treatises, and its author. It remains that we should put into a connected form the facts to which they testify, and point out the inferences yielded by their notices, and by the treatises themselves.
7). His Nationality Persian, and Probably Heathen.—That the author was of Persian nationality, is a point on which all the witnesses agree, except the fourteenth-century scribe of the ms. Orient. 1017, who however is merely silent about it. The name Aphrahat is, as has been already said, Persian—which fact at once confirms the tradition that he belonged to Persia, and helps to account for what seems to be the reluctance of early writers to call him by a name that was foreign, unfamiliar, unsuited to his subsequent station in the Church, and superseded by one that had sacred associations. As a Persian, he dates his writings by the years of the reign of the Persian King: the twenty-two were completed (he says) in the thirty-fifth, the twenty-third in the thirty-sixth of the reign of Sapor. —Again: as a Persian of the early fourth century, it is presumable that he was not originally a Christian. And this is apparently confirmed by the internal evidence of his own writings; for he speaks of himself as one of those “who have cast away idols, and call that a lie which our father bequeathed to us;” and again, “who ought to worship Jesus, for that He has turned away our froward minds from all superstitions of vain error, and taught us to worship one God our Father and Maker.” —But it is clear that he must have lived in a frontier region where Syriac was spoken freely; or else must have removed into a Syriac-speaking country at an early age; for the language and style of his writings are completely pure, showing no trace of foreign idiom, or even of the want of ease that betrays a foreigner writing in what is not his mother-tongue. It is clear also that, at whatever age or under whatever circumstances he embraced Christianity, he must have taken the Christian Scriptures and Christian theology into his inmost heart and understanding as every page of his writings attests.
8. Evidence that he was a Cleric, and a Bishop.—We have already seen that Georgius in his study of the Demonstrations perceived the indications which prove the writer to be of the Clergy. He goes farther, and notes that the sixth (Concerning Monks) is evidently written by a monk. He might have added, what is yet more important, that the fourteenth (which he rightly fixes on as evidently written by a cleric) can hardly have been written by one of lower rank than that of Bishop. The translation of the opening sentence of this discourse (which is an Epistle to the Bishops, Clergy and people of the Church of Seleucia and Ctesiphon) is disputed; for “we being gathered together have taken counsel to write this Epistle to our brethren ... the Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, and the whole Church” (XIV. 1) may be read so as to make the “Bishops, Priests, etc.,” either, the “we” who write,—or, the “brethren” who are written to. Whichever construction is adopted, the fact remains that Aphrahat here writes on behalf of a body of men assembled in council, who through him admonished their “dear and beloved brethren” whom they designate (farther on) as “the Bishops, Priests and Deacons ... and all the people of God who are in Seleucia and Ctesiphon.” It is not conceivable that any body of men but a synod of Bishops (with their clergy and people present and assenting) would, in that age of the Church, have taken upon itself to meet and consult and address such an epistle of admonition and implied rebuke to that great see, the seat of the “Catholicus of the East,” the prelate who in the oriental hierarchy was inferior in dignity to the Antiochian Patriarch alone, and in authority almost coequal with him. And it may be safely assumed that the writer of the Epistle was one—probably the chief—of the Bishops in whose name it is written. If we accept the late, but internally probable, statement of the Scribe of ms. Orient. (above mentioned), that “the Persian Sage” was “Bishop of the monastery of Mar Mathai,” we arrive at a complete explanation of the circumstances under which this Epistle was composed. For the Bishop of Mar Mathai was Metropolitan of Nineveh, and ranked among the Bishops of “the East” only second to the Catholicus; and his province bordered on that which the Catholicus (as Metropolitan of Seleucia) held in his immediate jurisdiction. The Bishop of Mar Mathai therefore would properly preside in a Synod of the Eastern Bishops, met to consider the disorders and discussions existing in Seleucia and its suffragan sees. It thus becomes intelligible how an Epistle of such official character has found a place in a series of discourses of which the rest are written as from man to man merely. The writer addresses the Bishops, Clergy, and people of Seleucia and Ctesiphon in the name of a Synod over which he was President, a Synod probably of Bishops suffragan to Nineveh, and perhaps of those of some adjacent sees. Thus the admonition comes officially from “Mar Jacob Bishop of Mar Mathai;” but the thoughts, and language, and literary form are the production of Aphrahat personally, and he accordingly embodies it as fourteenth in his alphabetic series of twenty-two treatises, in which it is duly distinguished by its initial letter nun, the fourteenth of the Semitic alphabet. It certainly breaks the sequence of subjects, coming after and before treatises relating to Judaism: but for the alphabetic sequence it is essential.—This alphabetic arrangement was overlooked or ignored (as it seems) by the Armenian translator, who has omitted four of the twenty-two and transposed others, placing the fourteenth apart from the rest,—although in Demonstr.XXII. (which however is not included in the Armenian version) the author recites all their titles, arranging them in their order, and noting that it is the order of the alphabet. In the Syriac original the fact is beyond question that Demonstr. XIV. is an integral part of the series; and we may rely with confidence on the internal evidence it yields of the high ecclesiastical rank of the writer —evidence confirmed by, and in its turn confirming, the statement of the fourteenth-century scribe who makes him Bishop of the second see of the East,
Reverting to the subject of the Persian nationality of Aphrahat, we note that this monastery of Mar Mathai was on the eastern, that is, the Persian, side of the Tigris, not far from what once was Nineveh and is now Mosul, on the precipitous mountain Elpheph (now Maklob) where it still stands, though ruinous, and is known by the name of Sheikh Matta, and is occupied by the Metram (or Metropolitan) and a few monks.9). His Writings little Concerned with Current Controversies.—To the remoteness of his see, and probably of the place of his obvious origin and abode, from the centres of religious thought and controversy, is probably due the notable absence from these discourses of all reference to the great theological questions that had employed, and in his time were engrossing, the leading minds of Christendom. He began to write within ten years after the Nicene Council and the Arian controversy, and the disputations that grew out of it were still ripe, and continued to abound long after. The writings of Ephraim show how vehemently in Aphrahat’s lifetime, or possibly a few years later, the theologians of Nisibis and of Edessa deemed themselves bound to strive for the Faith against Arians, Anomaeans, Apollinarians,—and not less against the surviving or revived heresy of home-grown production—that of Bardesan. But in Seleucia and Ctesiphon it is not heresy, but strife, self-seeking, and neglect of duty, that are censured by the Synod through the letter which we know as Demonstr. XIV., and the errors which the Bishop of Mar Mathai combats for the benefit of those whom he addresses are the errors of the Jews who refused and resisted the creed and the customs of the Church. There is in one place (Demonstr. III. 9) a passing reference to the heresiarchs of the second and third centuries, Valentinus, Manes, and Marcion; but it merely amounts to a brief statement in which the false teaching of each is summed up in a sentence, each followed by the question, Can one who holds such doctrine find acceptance before God by his fasting? No later heresy is even mentioned.
These facts not only confirm the tradition which places him at Nineveh, but they go far to account for the obscurity in which his name and his writings lay so long. In an age of excited controversy, these quiet hortatory discourses, marked by no striking eloquence of style or subtlety of reasoning, dealing with no burning question of the time, nor with any disputes more recent than those of the two previous centuries, or those between Jew and Christian, would hardly attain to more than a local circulation; and when they penetrated to Edessa or other such centres of Syriac theological life, would awaken but a languid interest. That they did so penetrate is certain; for of the existing mss. whence we derive their text, one (the oldest) was written in Edessa in 474, and Isaac of Antioch, who knew and imitated them, before that time, was a disciple of Zenobius of Edessa. But the paucity of such mss., and still more the oblivion which so long covered the name of Aphrahat, prove, either, that the work failed to attain popularity—or, that it provoked some prejudice which led to its practical suppression. It would be difficult, however, to point out anything in it to which exception could be so seriously taken as to be a bar to its acceptance. None of the errors which so keen a critic as Georgius detected in its theology—even if we admit the justice of his censure—is such as to shock the orthodoxy of the fourth or fifth century.
10). Possibly Suspected era Nestorian Tinge.—Yet it is possible that theological prepossession may indirectly have brought about the disfavour or at least disuse into which the Demonstrations fell. In Edessa there was an institution known as the “School of the Persians,” to which as it seems disciples from Persia resorted for theological instruction. From Ibas, Bishop of Edessa (435–457), who was infected with Nestorianism, the Nestorian taint passed to Marts, a Persian (and through him to Persia generally), and likewise to Mare, a teacher in the school. After the death of Ibas, the Persian and others who had followed him were expelled from Edessa, by Nonnus his orthodox opponent and successor; and the school was finally closed by the next Bishop, Cyrus, in the reign of Zeno (who died 491). These facts may well be supposed to have raised a prejudice against all writings coming from a Persian source; and the works of “the Persian Sage,” absolutely free though they are from any thought or phrase which could be construed as favouring or tending in the direction that led to the errors of Nestorius, may have come undeservedly under the ban issued against the School of the Persians and all that was connected with it, by the orthodox zeal of Cyrus. It is probable that his writings were read in that school, and that he himself may have studied them in early life. Prescribed in Edessa, the centre of Syriac theology, these discourses would be effectually checked in their circulation in all churches of Syriac-speaking Christendom that were anti-Nestorian).
11. Their Popularity in the Armenian Church.—How the book made good and held its footing in the Armenian Church is perhaps more difficult to explain. It is not indeed the only instance in which an author, of whom no works are extant in their original tongue, has survived and been widely known in a translation. A notable example is that of Irenaeus, of whose great work on Heresies, so well known in its early Latin dress, but a few fragments have reached us, through citations, in Greek. There is no obvious ecclesiastical channel through which the knowledge of the writings of Aphrahat can be supposed to have reached Armenia, unless by way of Edessa, before they fell (as above suggested) into discredit in that city. But it is to be borne in mind that from and after the close of the fourth century “greater (i.e. Eastern) Armenia was ruled as a dependency of Persia, by Persian Kings.” Of these the earlier at least were Christians, and their policy led them to promote the Syriac language and literature, as against the Greek, among their people; until, under the Catholicus Isaac (d. 441), the Armenian tongue was reduced to writing (in the characters then invested by Mesrob), and a beginning made of an Armenian sacred literature by the translation of the Scriptures into Armenian from the Syriac. Versions of the works of Syriac divines would naturally follow before long. That among these Ephraim’s Commentaries were conspicuous we have already mentioned (p. 147): that those of a Syriac Divine of Persian nationality should be passed over is unlikely—a Divine too of such repute as to have won the honourable title of “the Persian Sage,” and who as occupant of a great Persian see was also known as Jacob of Mar Mathai, metropolitan of Nineveh. How readily his assumed name would lead to his being confused with his far more widely known namesake of Nisibis, we have already pointed out; and it is obvious that the name, once attributed and accepted, would lend fictitious vogue to the book.
12. First Printed in an Armenian Version.—The mistake of the Armenian translator became, in later times, the means of first making the work—though not the name—of Aphrahat known to European scholars. The Armenian version, containing nineteen of the Demonstrations (XX. being omitted), was printed at Rome in 1756, edited, with a Latin version, by Antonelli. Its text is derived from a transcript made in 1719, after an ancient copy in the Armenian Monastery at Venice, by order of the Abbot Peter Mechitar, and presented by him to Pope Clement XI. for the Vatican Library. In this edition, entitled S. Patris Jacobi Episcopi Nisibeni Sermones, the discourses are not merely ascribed to Jacob of Nisibis, but the theory is advanced by the editor, that the Armenian text is the original. It is hardly necessary to point out that the alphabetic arrangement of the twenty-two discourses—which is not and could not be reproduced in Armenian, a language with an alphabet of thirty-eight letters—is alone sufficient to expose the impossibility of this idea.
13). Recovery of the Post-Syriac Original.—The Syriac text, so long forgotten, was first discovered among the mss. of the great Nitrian collection in the British Museum, by Dr. Cureton, whose name is so honourably known as a great Syriac scholar, and editor of Syriac documents. He did not live, however, to accomplish his desire of publishing it, but bequeathed that task to his still more eminent successor, in the leadership of Syriac studies in England, the late Dr. William Wright, then assistant keeper of mss. in the British Museum, and afterwards Professor of Arabic in the University of Cambridge. To him is due the admirable editio princeps of the Syriac text of oil the twenty-three Demonstrations (from the mss. 14617 and 17182), issued in London, 1869. He did not, however, carry out his intention of adding to this work a second volume, containing an English translation of the whole.
Since then, another edition of the series of twenty-two has been published in Paris (Firmin-Didot, 1894), as the first volume of a Patrologia Syriaca, under the general editorship of Dr. R. Graffin, lecturer in Syriac in the Theological Faculty of the Catholic Institute of Paris. This excellent work includes a Latin Version, and is preceded by a learned and copious Introduction, in which all questions relating to Aphrahat and his writings are fully treated,—both of which are the work of Dom Parisot, Benedictine Priest and Monk.
14). Was Aphrahat Prior to Ephraim?—In thus placing Aphrahat first as their projected series of Syriac Divines, the learned editors follow the opinion which, ever since Wright published his edition, has been adopted by Syriac scholars—that Aphrahat is prior in time to Ephraim. This is undoubtedly true (as pointed out above) in the only limited sense, that the Demonstrations are earlier by some years (the first ten by thirteen years, the remainder by five or six) than the earliest of Ephraim’s writings which can be dated with certainty (namely, the first Nisibene Hymn, which belongs to 350). It is then assumed that Ephraim was born in the reign of Constantine, therefore not earlier than 306, and that Aphrahat was a man of advanced age when he wrote (of which there is no proof whatever), and must therefore have been born before the end of the third century—perhaps as early as 280. It has been shown above (p. 145) that even if we admit the authority of the Syriac Life of Ephraim, we must regard the supposed statement of his birth in Constantine’s time as a mistranslation or rather perversion of the text. Thus the argument for placing Ephraim’s birth so late as 306 disappears, while for placing Aphrahat’s birth no argument has been advanced, but merely conjecture; and the result is, that the two may, so far as evidence goes, be regarded as contemporary. It is true that Barhebraeus, in his Ecclesiastical History, reckons Aphrahat as belonging to the time of Papas, who died 335; built is to be noted that in the very same context he mentions that letters were extant purporting to be addressed by Jacob of Nisibis and Ephraim to the same Papas,—and though he admits that some discredited the genuineness of these letters, he gives no hint that Ephraim was too young to have written them. In fact he could not do so, for in the earlier part of this History he had already named Ephraim as present at the Nicene Council in 325, and had placed his name before that of Aphrahat in including both among the contemporaries of the Great Athanasius).
15). His Use of Holy Scripture.—Concerning the canon and text of the Books of the Bible as used by Aphrahat,—a subject hardly within the scope of this Introduction—a few words must suffice.
In citing the Old Testament, he shows himself acquainted with nearly all the Books of the Jewish Canon, and with some, but not all, of the deutero-canonical books commonly called Apocrypha—with Tobit, Ecclesiasticus (and perhaps Wisdom), and Maccabees, but not Judith, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, or Baruch. He follows the Peshitto rather than the Greek, but not seldom departs from both; and he shows a knowledge of the Chaldee Paraphrase.
His New Testament Canon is apparently that of the Peshitto;—that is to say, he shows no signs of acquaintance with the four shorter Catholic Epistles, and in the one citation which seems to be from the Apocalypse, it has been shown to be probable that he is really referring to the Targum of Onkelos on Dt 33,6. But he omits all reference also to the longer Catholic Epistles, except 1 John. He also passes over (of St. Paul’s Epistles) 2 Thessalonians, Titus, and Philemon. But as regards the last, its shortness accounts for the omission; and as to the former two, he can hardly have been unacquainted with them, inasmuch as he knew 1 Thessalonians and 1 and 2 Timothy. He designates the writer of Hebrews as “the Apostle,” probably meaning to ascribe it to St. Paul.
In citing the Gospels, he seems sometimes to follow the Diatessaron, which, as we have said, was in the hands of his contemporary Ephraim, and which is known to have circulated largely in the East until far on in the following century. Sometimes, however, his references seem to be to the separate Gospels as commodity read. It cannot be claimed for the Peshitto that he always or even usually follows its text; nor yet does he uniformly agree with the Curetonian, or with the probably earlier form of the Syriac Gospel recently discovered by Mr. Lewis. With each of these last, however, his text has many points of coincidence. In the rest of the New Testament, we can only say that he must have had before him a text which diverged not seldom from the Peshitto).
16). Literary and Theological Value of his Writings.—From the Demonstrations, eight have been selected for the present volume, viz.: I). Of Faith (with Letter of an Inquirer prefixed); V). Of Wars; VI). Of Monks VIII). Of the Resurrection of the Dead; X). Of Pastors; XVII). Of Christ the Son of God; XXI). Of Persecution; XXII). Of Death and the Latter Times. Of these, one only (XVII). is controversial,—directed against the Jews: it is painfully inadequate in the treatment of its great theme,—so inadequate as to suggest the surmise that doubts may have arisen about the orthodoxy of the writer, such as to discredit his works, and to account for the neglect in which they lay (as we have seen) for centuries. But in all his writings his mastery of the Scriptures, of the Old Testament especially, is conspicuous; and in many of them, especially in those of a hortatory character, there is much force of earnest persuasiveness, rising at times into eloquence).
Ephraim, Apapphrat 29