St Ephraem Syrus

(c. 306—373)

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Syrian biblical exegete and hymn writer. After the cession of Nisibis to Persia in 363 he settled at Edessa, where most of his extant works were written. His voluminous exegetical, dogmatic, controversial, and ascetical writings are mostly in verse. Over 500 genuine hymns survive; after his death they were arranged into hymn cycles, of which the most famous are those on Faith (including the five ‘On the Pearl’), on Paradise, and on Nisibis (the second half of this cycle is concerned with the Descent of Christ into Hell). Several of his works, in verse as well as prose, were written to combat heretics, notably Marcion, Bardesanes, and Mani. He wrote in Syriac, but his works were translated into Armenian and Greek at an early date. Feast day in the E., 28 Jan.; in the W., formerly 1 Feb., then 18 June, now 9 June (10 June in the American BCP, 1979).

Subjects: Christianity.

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