Ephrem the Syrian: Hymns

Ephrem the Syrian: Hymns

Ephrem the Syrian: Hymns

Ephrem the Syrian: Hymns

Excerpt

Ephrem the Syrian, the foremost writer in the Syriac tradition of Christianity, was born in Nisibis near the beginning of the fourth century C. E. and spent his early life there, teaching and writing hymns, homilies and commentaries, with the approval of a succession of orthodox bishops. The Roman loss to Persia in 363 C. E. forced him, along with the rest of the citizenry, to abandon his native city and move westward in order to remain within the Roman Empire. He continued his rich literary production in Edessa, where he is said to have established both a school of biblical and theological studies and women's choirs to sing his hymns. Ordained to the diaconate, he died while ministering to victims of the plague in 373 C. E.

Ephrem's importance for the history of Syriac literature and for the history of Christianity in the Syriac-speaking context is immense. His hymns, incorporated early into the liturgy, have remained central in both the East and West Syrian liturgical traditions. From this paramount position they have exerted a formative influence on all aspects of ecclesiastical life. The literary and hymnic forms that he used, some of which he may have invented, became the standard forms of all subsequent Syriac literature and hymnography. Although his works incorporate many of the themes found in the Jewish-Christian or Gnostic writings of the earliest Syriac Christianity, Ephrem's commitment to Nicene orthodoxy set the subsequent direction of the Syriac Church. In his own lifetime and for a half-century thereafter his method of biblical interpretation was the sole . . .

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