Ephraem Graecus Scholarship

Academic work on the Greek corpus attributed to St. Ephrem (i.e., Ephraem Graecus) is still, unfortunately, rare. I’m happy to pass along this article.

Emmanouela Grypeou, “Ephraem Graecus, ‘Sermo In Adventum Domini’. A Contribution to the Study of the Transmission of Apocalyptic Motifs in Greek, Latin and Syriac Traditions in Late Antiquity,” in Graeco-Latina et Orientalia: Studia in honorem Angeli Urbani heptagenarii, ed. Samir Khalil Samir and Juan Pedro Monferrer-Sala (Cordoba: Oriens Academic, 2013), 165-79.

In Memoriam Fr. Ephrem Lash

Fr. Ephrem reposed in the Lord on 15 March 2016. He waephremlashs one of a few people who recognized the historical importance of the Greek writings attributed to St. Ephrem the Syrian, and he left behind him a number of valuable translations (hitherto the only ones in English).

The centrality of ‘Ephraem Graecus’ for the Orthodox Christian tradition is best described in Fr. Ephrem’s own words:

“The ascetic writings in Greek attributed to St Ephrem the Syrian are some of the basic texts of Orthodox monasticism. The Triodion lays down that they are to be read at Matins each weekday morning in Lent, after the first two readings from the Psalter. Together with the Lausiac History of Palladios, …the Ladder of St John of Sinai and the Instructions of St Theodore the Studite, they should form the regular diet of non-biblical spiritual reading for Orthodox Christians.”

Am obituary worthy of Fr Ephrem is available here.

Archimandrite Ephrem Lash, who reposed during the season of Ephraimic prayer and repentance–requiescas in pace, and may your memory be eternal.

‘The’ Prayer of St Ephrem

There are many prayers in the Greek corpus attributed to St Ephrem, but the most well-known is the Lenten ‘Prayer of St Ephrem’ appointed to be said daily throughout the forty-day Fast preceding Pascha.

O Lord and Master of my life, a spirit of idleness, meddling, love of power, [love of money], and idle talking give me not. A spirit, rather, of chastity, humble-mindedness, patience, and love bestow upon me, thy servant. Yea, O Lord, King, grant me to see my own failings and not  condemn my brother, for blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Κύριε καὶ Δέσποτα τῆς ζωῆς μου, πνεῦμα ἀργίας, περιεργίας, φιλαρχίας, [φιλαργυρίας], καὶ ἀργολογίας μή μοι δός· πνεῦμα δὲ σωφροσύνης, ταπεινοφροσύνης, ὑπομονῆς καὶ ἀγάπης χάρισαί μοι τῷ σῷ δούλῳ. Ναί, Κύριε Βασιλεῦ, δώρησαί μοι ὁρᾶν τὰ ἐμὰ πταίσματα, καὶ μὴ κατακρίνειν τὸν ἀδελφόν μου· ὅτι εὐλογητὸς εἶ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων. Ἀμήν*

Harley MS 5541 f.9v

Harley MS 5541, ff. 9r-9v (British Library, 4th quarter of the 15th century-1st quarter of the 16th century)

The ancient Slavonic translation does not reproduce the Greek text as we have it today, but contains some variations.

O Lord and Master of my life, a spirit of despondency, negligence, love of money and idle talking take from me. A spirit, rather, of chastity, humility, patience and love bestow upon me thy servant. Yea, O Lord, King, grant me to see my own sins and not condemn my brother, for blessed art Thou unto the ages. Amen.

Господи и владико животѹ моемѹ, духъ оунынїѧ, небрежεнїѧ, срεбролюбїѧ и празднословїѧ ѿжεни ѿ мεнε. Духъ же цѣломѹдрїѧ, смиренїѧ, терпѣнїѧ и любве дарѹй ми рабѹ твоемѹ. Ей Господи Царю, даждь ми зрѣти моѧ согрѣшенїѧ, и еже не ωсуждати брата моегω, якω благословенъ еси во вѣки. Аминь

016-0039

 Horologion, 1423, Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra


*Precationes e sacris scripturis collectae, quarum pleraequae sunt Sancti Ephraim, pro iis qui uolunt suam ipsorum procliuem ad passiones uoluptatesque uoluntatem cohibere (ed. Phrantzoles 6:353). Cf. Ad imitationem proverbiorum (CPG 3910; ed. Phrantzoles 1:261, 266).

 

New Translation of St. Ephrem from CUA Press

St Ephram (Wikes) Jacket mechanical.inddhttp://cuapress.cua.edu/books/viewbook.cfm?book=F130

From the CUA Press website:

“It is in his eighty-seven Hymns on Faith – the longest extant piece of early Syriac literature – that he develops his arguments against subordinationist christologies most fully. These hymns, most likely delivered orally and compiled after the author’s death, were composed in Nisibis and Edessa between the 350s ans 373. They reveal an author conversant with Christological debates further to the west, but responding in a uniquely Syriac idiom. As such, they form an essential source for reconstructing the development of pro-Nicene thought in the eastern Mediterranean.

Yet, the Hymns on Faith offer far more than a simple Syriac pro-Nicene catechetical literature. In these hymns Ephrem reflects upon the mystery of God and the limits of human knowledge. He demonstrates a sophisticated grasp of symbol and metaphor and their role in human understanding.

The Hymns on Faith are translated here for the first time in English on the basis of Edmund Beck’s critical edition.

JEFFREY WICKES [the translator] is assistant professor of Early Christianity at Saint Louis University.

Assemani Edition (1732-46) Online

LiUntitlednk to an online version (pdf) of the 18th century edition to which St. Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain refers in his Synaxarion entry for St. Ephrem. It is comprised of three volumes of Syriac writings and three volumes of Greek writings. All six volumes are accompanied by Latin translations, which makes both corpora even more accessible.

http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm/ref/collection/CUA/id/27186

About

The writings attributed to St. Ephrem the Syrian are divided into two corpora: a Syriac collection and a Greek collection, the latter being largely independent of the former. For many centuries, Orthodox Christians had access only to the Greek writings. These writings were translated into Slavonic early on and generally exercised an enormous impact on Orthodox ascetical theology. But in the 18th century, an edition of both corpora was published in Rome, to which St. Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain responded with enthusiasm, since the Syriac writings also included a Latin translation, rendering them highly accessible.

In his Synaxarion notice for St. Ephrem, St. Nikodimos says: “The writings of Saint Ephrem are published in six volumes: three in Greek/Latin, and three in Syriac/Latin. Wherefore, let those that know Latin take thought to also translate the Syriac writings into Greek, or the vernacular. And let them not neglect these remarkable writings of the saint and allow their compatriots to be deprived…. If they neglect them, they will be judged like the wicked servant who buried his Lord’s talent in the earth”  (Synaxarion, 28 January).

For the first time in centuries, Orthodox Christians were being given access to the Syriac writings of St. Ephrem, albeit in a Latin translation. Yet St. Nikodimos’s message is clear: St. Ephrem’s writings are so valuable and important that anyone with the requisite linguistic training is obligated to translate them, even indirectly.

Since the 18th century, the situation has of course improved–in one sense. In the past sixty years, the Syriac corpus has begun to be critically edited and translated, not from the Latin, but from the original language. And yet, many writings still remain out of reach. In addition to a large number of untranslated Syriac texts, the Greek corpus, which has long been available to readers of Greek and Slavonic, has to this day received almost no scholarly attention, remaining basically unknown in English.

The aim of this website is therefore to make the writings of St. Ephrem the Syrian more widely accessible to anglophone Orthodox Christians. Precedence is given to the Greek corpus, since these influential writings, so important to the Orthodox tradition, have, for the most part, not yet seen the light of day in English. These writings also possess the advantage of being eminently simple and easy to read. Though largely directed towards monks, they provide practical and down-to-earth inspiration and advice for laymen, making them ideal spiritual reading.

Following St. Nikodimos’s advice, and recognizing that a translation of a translation is better than nothing at all, this site will also make available select Syriac writings via their Latin interpretations.


 

This page was created to help Orthodox Christians find English translations of the writings of St. Ephrem the Syrian for devotional purposes. While the site makes ample use of the scholarship pertaining to St. Ephrem’s life and works, its scope is not academic in nature, and it does not generally enter into questions of authenticity.

The site is administered by Tikhon Alexander Pino, a PhD student at Marquette University.

If you are aware of existing translations that I have neglected to link, please kindly inform me so that I can make the information offered here as comprehensive as possible. Thank you.

The site will not feature Comments, but readers and critics are encouraged to contact the administrator using the form on the Contact page (hover over “About” in the Header to see this option in a dropdown menu).