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).