Ephraim the Syrian.
I.—Summary of the Authenticated Facts of His Life.
All that is known, on early and trustworthy evidence, of the person and life of Ephraim may be briefly summed up. He was born within the Roman pale, in the ancient and famous city of Nisibis in Mesopotamia, in, or before, the earliest days of the reign (a.d. 306–337) of Constantine the Great: he was a disciple of St. Jacob, Bishop of that city, who died a.d. 338: and he lived in it, under Jacob and the three Bishops who successively followed him, through three unsuccessful sieges laid to it by Sapor, King of Persia, down to its final surrender under the terms of the ignominious peace concluded with Sapor by the Emperor Jovian after the defeat and death of his predecessor Julian (a.d. 363). Nisibis was then abandoned by its Christian inhabitants; and Ephraim finally settled at Edessa, and took up his abode as a “Solitary” in a cell on the “Mount of Edessa”—a rocky hill close to the city, where many anchorites sought retreat. Here he rose into repute as a teacher, and a champion against heresy; and no less as an ascetic and saint. The fame of St. Basil, metropolitan of Cæsarea in Cappadocia (370–379), drew him from his solitude to visit that great prelate and doctor, and from him he received the diaconate; but (though some affirm that he was advanced to the priesthood) it is agreed that he never became a Bishop. He died at an advanced age, in his retreat, in the year 373 according to most authorities, but some suppose him to have lived to 378. He was a most copious writer, and left an immense quantity of writings of which a large part is extant,—Sermons, Commentaries, and Hymns. These constitute such a body of instruction in the substance of Scripture and the faith of the church, that they have justly earned for him the title of malpono, or teacher. And not only have his Hymns done much to shape the ritual of the Syrian Churches, in which large portions of them are embodied, but to his p. 121 Sermons this singular honour is paid, that lessons selected from them were appointed, and are still read, in the regular course of public worship.