Church Fathers: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 13: 33.02.02 Dissertation Part II

Online Resource Library

Commentary Index | Return to | Download

Church Fathers: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 13: 33.02.02 Dissertation Part II

TOPIC: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 13 (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 33.02.02 Dissertation Part II

Other Subjects in this Topic:

To confute the heresies thus circulated, Ephraim borrowed the tunes employed by Harmodius; and his hymns, set to these tunes, soon carried the day in favor of orthodoxy, partly by the force of their truth, partly by their superior literary power, and partly by the help of a choir formed among the nuns whom he employed to sing them, morning and evening, in the churches. Thus the rival hymnody of heresy was superseded, and the hymns of Ephraim gained the place they have ever since held in the Church, wherever Syriac is the ecclesiastical language,-even though it is no longer the vernacular.

He celebrated this victory in the following strain of triumphant imprecation :-

"Cursed be our trust [if it be] on the Seven;hyperlink the Aeons which Bardaisan confesses!

Anathema [be he] who says, as he said: that from them descend the rain and the dew!

Anathema who affirms, like him: that from them are the showers and the frosts!

Cursed be he who says, as he said: that from them are the snow and the ice!

[Cursed be he who affirms, like him]: that from them are the seeds for the husbandmen!

Anathema who confesses, as he confessed: that from them are the fruits for the labourer!

Anathema who believes, like him: that from them are famine and plenty!

Anathema who confesses, as he taught: that from them are summer and winter!

Anathema be on the man: and on the woman who thus speaks!

Anathema be on the house: wherein it is thus affirmed!

Anathema his doctrine which rests: its trust on the Sevenfold!

Cursed be he who reproaches his Creator: and ascribes dominion to the Seven!

Cursed be he who reads the Scriptures: and becomes a gainsayer of the Scriptures!

Cursed be he who reads the Prophets: and breaks the words of the Prophets!

Cursed be he who reads the Apostles: and abides not by their words!"

To this is subjoined a verse, the response of Balai (Balaeus) a disciple:-

"The Lord exalt thy horn: O Church that art faithful!

For the King, and the King's son: are established in thine ark."

Another demonstration of Ephraim's zeal against heresy, which the compiler of the History judiciously omits, is (unhappily for the fame of both) attested, and with evident approval, by Gregory of Nyssa.

Apollinaris, who was his contemporary, and whose erroneous teaching he held in abhorrence, had committed his heresies to writing in two volumes which he gave into the keeping of a woman, a follower of his sect. Ephraim approached this woman and persuaded her to lend him the books, pretending that he agreed with the doctrine of their author and desired to use them in controversy against its opponents. At her instance he returned them in a short time; but before so doing, he treated them with fish-glue in such fashion that the leaves of each cohered into a solid mass, while to outward appearance they were unharmed. Soon after, he challenged Apollinaris to meet him in a public disputation concerning the articles of faith which the heretic had impugned. The latter sought to decline the controversy, pleading his old agehyperlink and infirmities; but consented to it,-only on condition, however, that he should be allowed to read from these volumes the statement and defence of his tenets therein written by him. On these terms, the disputants met. Apollinaris was called on to maintain his thesis, and his writings were placed in his hands; but when he went to open the books, it was in vain. No part of either volume would yield to his fingers; he was obliged to desist and to retire, baffled and ashamed; in such dismay as to bring on an illness that nearly proved fatal.

Another incident of this period, related in the History, is a miracle (a genuine one this time, if true) wrought by Ephraim on a paralytic. Seeing him as he sat and begged at the door of a church in Edessa, the holy man asked him: "Wilt thou be made whole?" "Yea, my Lord; lay thy hand on me," was the reply. With the words, "In the Name of Christ, arise and walk," he was cured instantly; and departed, glorifying God.

At the end of four years, messengers came to him from Basil, summoning him to come and receive consecration to the Episcopate, for some see unnamed (to which, as Sozomen relates, he had been elected;-Hist. Eccles. II. 16). When he learned their errand, he reigned madness, going to and fro in the streets in unseemly fashion, in motley garb, eating bread as he went and letting his spittle run down. Thus he succeeded in evading the undesired elevation: the messengers, shocked at his behaviour, returned without him, and reported that they found him a madman. "O hidden pearl of price" (cried Basil) "whom the world knows not! Ye are the madmen, and he the sane."

The city and the Mount of Edessa suffered in these days from an invasion of the Huns, who plundered, murdered, and ravished, without mercy,-not even sparing the cells and convents. This calamity Ephraim is said to have recorded, in writings which have not reached us.

9. Persecution by Valens.

"The doors She is clad

From another peril the Edessenes were saved by their faith and constancy. In the days of their Bishop Barses (361-378), the Arian Emperor Valens (364-378), in the course of his persecution of the orthodox, approached the city and summoned the inhabitants to wait upon him in his camp and hear his pleasure there. They disregarded the command, and gathered into the great Church of St. Thomas,hyperlink where they and their Bishop continued unceasingly in prayer. The historian Socrates, a trustworthy and early (fifth century) authority, confirms our History here; and explains that Valens had ordered their Church to be surrendered to the Arians, and was enraged against them for resisting his decree, and against his Prefect Modestus for failing to carry it out. Valens then, finding them contumacious, ordered one of his generals (this same Modestus, according to Sozomen, who also relates the story) to enter the city and put the people to the sword. As Modestus, who was a humane man, sought to persuade them to yield, he met a woman leading her two sons to the Church. He strove to stop her, warning her of the danger she incurred; but her reply was, "I hear that they who fear God are to be slain, and I am in haste to win the crown with the rest." "But what of these boys?" he asked. "Are they thy sons?" "They are," she answered, "and we pray, both I and they, that we may be made an oblation to the Lord." Amazed at her resolve, he reported the matter to Valens, to convince him that the Edessenes were prepared to die rather than submit. The Emperor was moved to relent; the people and their Bishop and priests came forth; he heard their plea, was ashamed of his cruel purpose, pardoned their disobedience, and departed. This well-attested incident is to be assigned to 371, or to the preceding or ensuing year.hyperlink This victory of faith was celebrated by Ephraim in the following verses :-

After all was thus restored to peace and orthodoxy, Ephraim withdrew to his retreat on the Mount, which he is not recorded to have again quilted, save on one occasion, to be presently related.

10. Penitent Sent to Ephraim by Basil: Basil's Death.

The death of Basil (at the end of 378) is said by our author to have caused great grief to Ephraim, and to have been lamented by him in hymns. But (as will be shown below) this is hardly possible, even if the latest date for Ephraim's death be accepted.

Another miraculous incident connected with Ephraim's biography, belongs to the year of Basil's death. A woman of high rank, but of evil life, in Caesarea, being moved to penitence, wrote on a paper a full confession of her sins, and gave it to Basil, who at her entreaty laid it with prayer before the Lord. Her repentance and his intercession prevailed so far, that the record of all her guilt disappeared from the paper, save of one sin, more heinous than the rest. Disappointed thus of her hope of full pardon, she had recourse again to Basil, supplicating that this sin too might be wiped out. He encouraged her to persevere in prayer, and advised her to repair to the Mount of Edessa, to Ephraim, and through him obtain her desire. To Ephraim accordingly she made her way, and cried to him, saying, "Have pity on me, thou holy one of God." When he heard Basil's advice and her petition, he disavowed all such power to prevail with God as Basil had ascribed to him, and advised her rather to hasten back and obtain her Archbishop's farther intercession. She returned accordingly to Caesarea; but, as it seemed, too late: Basil had died before her arrival, and she met his corpse as it was carried to burial. In despair, she prostrated herself in the dust, proclaimed her story to all that stood by, and upbraided the dead saint, "Woe is me, servant of God! why didst thou send me far away that I should return too late and meet thee borne to the grave! The Lord judge betwixt me and thee, who hast sent me to another, when thyself couldst have absolved me!" One of the attendant clergy, desiring to learn what was the sin for which pardon was so hard to win, took from her the paper she held, and opening found it blank. The last and deadliest of her list had vanished like the rest: and "thus, by the prayers of Basil and of Ephraim, and by the woman's faith and perseverance, her sins were all of them blotted out."

After this occurrence, the History places the following narrative of Ephraim's last intervention in earthly concerns. It is related likewise by Palladius (Ephraim's younger contemporary) and by Sozomen.

11. Exertions in Relief of Famine.

In a season of severe famine, he ascertained that grain was being hoarded in the stores of certain persons who gave nothing to the starving poor. When he rebuked their inhumanity, they excused themselves on the plea that none was to be found of such probity as to guarantee fairness and honesty in the distribution of relief. Ephraim at once offered his services, and was accepted as their agent throughout the famine season, to dispense large sums as the treasurer and steward of their bounty. Among other things, he provided three hundred letters, partly for removing the sick to stations where they were duly tended, partly for carrying the dead for interment. A body of helpers worked with him in administering relief, and their care extended not merely through the city, but to the country and villages adjacent. The year of dearth ended, a year of plenty ensued; Ephraim retired to his cell,-this time to leave it no more. He died a month after the close of the charitable labours. Of them his biographer, following for once the better instinct which recognizes higher worth in services of love than in ascetic practices or in miraculous pretensions, writes thus:-"God gave him this occasion that therein he might win the crown in the close of his life."

12. His Testament.

In his Testament, which professes to have been composed in immediate anticipation of his end, he laid on his disciples a solemn charge that his body should be buried humbly, covered with no garment save his tunic (cothênô). Gregory of Nyssa adds that a rich friend who, though informed of his prohibition, had provided beforehand for this purpose a costly robe, was punished by the possession of an evil spirit, which tormented him until, on his confession, the dying saint relieved him, casting out the demon by prayer and laying on of hands.

From the extant Syriac of this documenthyperlink (which is metrical), the following have been selected as the most striking verses:

"I Ephraim am at point to die: and I write my testament; That I may leave for all men a memorial: of whatsoever is mine, That though it be [but] for my words: they that know me may remember me. Woe is me, for my times are ended: and the length of my years is fulfilled; The spinning for me is shortened: the thread is nigh unto cutting; The oil fails in the lamp: my days are spent, yea, mine hours; The hireling has finished his year: and the sojourner has fulfilled his season. Around me are the summoners: on this side and that are they that lead me away. I cry aloud, [but] none hears me: and I complain, [but] none delivers."Woe to thee, Ephraim, for the judgment: when thou shall stand before the Son's judgment-seat, And around thee they that know thee: on the right hand and the left, Lo! there shalt thou be confounded: woe to him who is put to shamethere! Jesu, do Thou judge Ephraim: nor give his judgment to another; For whoso has God for his Judge: he finds mercy in judgment; For I have heard from the wise: yea, I have heard from men of knowledge, That whoso sees the face of the King: though he has offended, he shallnot die.

"By him who came down on Mount Sinai: and by him who spake on the rock, By that Mouth which spake the "EliF137":hyperlink and made the bowels of creation tremble, By him who was sold in Judah: and by him who was scourged in Jerusalem, By the Might which was smitten on the cheek: and by the Glory whichendured spitting, By the threefold Names of fire: and by the one Assent and will, I have not rebelled against the Church: nor against the might of God. If in my thought I have magnified the Father: above the Son, let Him have no mercy on me! And if I have accounted the Holy Spirit less: than God, let mine eyes be darkened! If as I have said, I confessed not: let me go into outer darkness! And if I speak in hypocrisy: let me burn with the wicked in fire!

"I adjure you my disciples: with adjurations that may not be loosed, That my words be not set aside: that ye loose not my commandments. Whoso lays me beneath the altar: he shall not see the Altar of heaven; For it is not meet that foul stench: should be laid in the Holy Place; Whoso has laid me within the temple: he shall not see the temple of the Kingdom.

"Take nought from me as memorial:hyperlink my beloved, my brothers, my sons, For as much as ye have a memorial: that which ye have heard of Jesus. For if ye take aught from Ephraim: into reproach will Ephraim come; For He, my Lord, will say unto me: 'More than in Me they have trusted in thee, For if they had relied on Me: they had not sought a memorial from thee.'"Lay me not with the martyrs: for I am a sinner and unworthy, And because of my unworthiness I fear: to be brought beside their bones; For if stubble comes near to fire: it will scorch it, yea, devour it. It is not that I hate their neigbourhood: because of mine unworthiness. I fear it.

"Whoso carries me on his fingers: may his hands be leprous as Gehazi! "On your shoulders carry me: and in haste conduct me [to the grave], And as a mean man bury me: for I have worn out my days in sadness. Why glorify ye me, O men: who before our Lord am ashamed? And why give ye me [the name of] 'Blessed': who am disclosed in my works? Should one show you my transgressions: ye would all of you spit in my face. For if the stench of the sinner: could strike one that stood by him, Ye would all of you flee away: from the loathsome stench of Ephraim."Whoso lays with me a pall: may he go forth into outer darkness! And whoso has laid with me a shroud: may he be cast into Gehenna. of fire! In my coat and cowl shall ye bury me: for ornament beseems not the hateful, Nor does praise profit the dead: who is laid and cast into the tomb.

"Arise, my brethren of Edessa: my lords and my sons and my fathers! Bring whatsoever ye have vowed: to lay along with your brother, Bring and set it before me: whatsoever ye my brethren have vowed. While I have yet a little memory: let me set on it a price; And let there be bought pure vessels: and let there be hired workmen therewith, And distribution be made among the poor: the needy and them that are in want.

"Blessed is the city wherein ye dwell: Edessa, mother of the wise, Which from the living mouth of the Son: was blessed by His Disciple.hyperlink This blessing shall abide in her: until the Holy One shall be revealed."Whoso withholds from me aught that he has vowed: shall die the death of Ananias, Who sought to deceive the Apostles: and was stretched [dead] before their feet."Whoso carries before me a taper: may his fire be kindled beside him! For to what end avails fire: for him whose fire is from himself? For when the visible fire is kindled: in it is consumed the secret fire. Sufficient for me is the pain without: add ye not to me that which is within.

"Lay me not with sweet spices: for this honour avails me not; Nor yet incense and perfumes: for the honour benefits me not. Burn sweet spices in the Holy Place: and me, even me, conduct to the grave with prayer. Give ye incense to God: and over me send up hymns. Instead of perfumes of spices: in prayer make remembrance of me. What can goodly odour profit: to the dead who cannot perceive it? Bring them in and burn them in the Holy Place: that they which enter in may smell the savour. Wrap thou not the fetid dung: in silk that profits it not. Cast it down upon the dunghill: for it cannot perceive honour [done to it].

"Lay me not in your sepulchres: for your magnificence profits me not; For I have a covenant with God: that I shall be buried with strangers. I am a stranger, as they were: with them, O my brethren, lay me! For every bird loves its kind: and man loves him that is like himself. In the cemetery lay me: where are the broken of heart,That when the Son of God comes: He may embrace mehyperlink and raise me among them."

[After blessing by name the five faithful disciples above mentioned (page 126), he leaves an anathema on the two, Paulinus and Urit, who had erred from the faith; and against]"Arians and Anomoeans: Cathari and those of the Serpent,hyperlink Marcionites and Manichoeans: Bardesanites and Kukites, Paulites and Vitalianites: Sabbatarians and Borborites, With all the other doctrines: of superstitious that are unseemly."

[The dying Saint recalls in the following lines the vision of his childhood, and praises God for its fulfilment.]"I swear by your lives I lie not: in this thing that I tell. For when I was a little child: and lay in my mother's bosom, I saw (I was as in a dream): a thing which has come to pass in truth. There grew a vine-shoot on my tongue: and increased and reached unto heaven, And it yielded fruit without measure: leaves likewise without number. It spread, it stretched wide, it bore fruit: all creation drew near, And the more they were that gathered: the more its clusters abounded. These clusters were the Homilies; and these leaves the Hymns. God was the giver of them: glory to Him for His grace! For He gave to me of His good pleasure: from the storehouse of His treasures."

This farewell strain has no doubt suffered interpolation, but the main part of what is above translated is confirmed as genuine by the references to it of Gregory, who had undoubtedly read it in a Greek version.hyperlink As it has reached us, it ends with a narrative, which at most can only claim to be an appendix added by a disciple, of the lamentations uttered at his deathbed by a maiden named Lamprotate, daughter of a man of rank in Edessa, who entreated permission to make a tomb for him and another at his feet for herself. The narrative concludes with his consent to this petition, his parting commands to her, and her promise of obedience.

His body was followed to the grave by all the people of the city and neighborhood, and by the Bishops, priests, and deacons of the province, with the monks, whether "anchorites, stylites, or coenobites"-solitary, or living in communities. It was laid (as he had desired) in the strangers' burial-ground; but not long after, the citizens removed it thence, and made a grave for him, deacon as he was, among those of their Bishops,-probably in the monastery (now belonging to the Armenians) of St. Sergius on the Mount of Edessa, where his tomb is shown to this day, as we learn from the Reise in Syr. u Mesopot. of Dr. Sachau (p. 202).

13. Death and Burial.-His death occurred in Haziran (June), on the 15th according to our History (Vat.), but other authorities differ, assigning it to the 9th, 18th, or 19th. The shorter Syriac Life gives the year as 372,-thus contradicting the History which represents him as living in the year of Basil's death (378).

Even in the time of Gregory of Nyssa, an annual commemoration of Ephraim had become customary in the Church, which gave occasion for the Encomium above referred to. In the East, it was held on the 28th of January; but in the Roman Martyrology his name is recorded on the 1st of February.

IV.-Recapitulation of Authentic Facts of Life.

The Life, whence the above narrative is mainly derived, though evidently put into its present form by compilers many generations later than the time of Ephraim, is in its leading outlines to be accepted as historically trustworthy, though it has no doubt been largely amplified by the incorporation of exaggerated or fictitious details. Of its essential points, not a few are confirmed by his own writings; and many more (as has been said above, p. 121), by evidence of hardly later date,-especially by the Encomium of Gregory of Nyssa (d. 395), who assures us that he derives his account from Ephraim's written statements and from no other source.hyperlink This Father, as being brother of Basil with whom Ephraim was so closely associated in his later life, may well have known personally the man of whom he wrote, and was at least in a position to collect and verify with discrimination the facts of his life. Further, the general historical framework of the biography is sufficiently attested as correct by the contemporary secular historians, non-Christian as well as Christian-notably (as will appear farther on), as regards the siege of Nisibis, by one whom Ephraim most abhorred, the Emperor Julian.

It may be briefly affirmed that the external independent evidence covers all the facts included in the summary given above (pp. 120,121), at the opening of this Section. It extends farther to many incidents related in the Life,-such as the attempt of Sapor to take Nisibis by turning the river against its walls, Ephraim's encounter with the woman who met him as he entered Edessa and her retort to his rebuke, his borrowing the music of the heretic in order to popularize the orthodox teaching of his own hymns, the call to the Episcopate and his evasion of it, the constancy of the faith of the Edessenes when threatened by the persecutor Valens, the famine and the work of relief organized by Ephraim in the last year of his life; also to a few of the details which belong to or verge on the supernatural,-the dream of the vine-shoot which foreshadowed his literary fertility, the vision of the Angel with the book who appeared to his brother-anchorite, and that of the dove, which he himself seemed to see, inspiring the discourses of Basil. In these facts, greater and smaller taken together, we have sufficient data for the derivation of the main outlines of his life and the leading features of his character.

V.-Historical Criticism of Medieval Amplifications.

But along with the genuine and trustworthy matter, the compiler has embodied much that is unattested and in many cases inherently improbable, and even some things that are demonstrably untrue.

i. The Miraculous Details.-To the category of the improbable-the fiction of hagiology or the growth of myth-belong the miracles so freely ascribed to Ephraim and the miraculous events represented as attending on his career. It is noteworthy that Ephraim himself, though no doubt he believed that he was the recipient of Divine intimations in dream or vision, never lays claim to supernatural powers. Nor does Gregory in the Encomium attribute to him any such-except in the case of the rich friend who for his mistaken zeal was given over to an evil spirit; and on his repentance relieved through Ephraim's intercession.hyperlink The voice that issued from his father's idol foretelling his future war against idolatry-the answer of the new-born babe that cleared him from calumny-the crowned phantom on the walls of Nisibis that scared the besiegers-the plague of insects that drove them into disastrous flight-the Angel sent to call him back to Edessa when he had fled thence-the storm hushed and the sea-monster slain by his word on the voyage to Egypt-the monk whom he delivered at once from demoniacal possession and from heresy-the sudden gift of tongues which enabled him to speak Coptic with Bishoi and Greek with Basil-the restoration to life of the youth who had died of a viper's bite at Samosata-the paralytic healed at the church door in Edessa-the disappearance of the record of guilt from the scroll on which the penitent of Caesarea had written her confession-all these belong to the later growth of legend that springs up naturally over the tomb of a saint. Some of them may be safely set aside as purely fictitious; others are probably due to metaphoric expressions mistaken for literal assertions, or to rhetorical amplification throwing a false coloring of the supernatural over ordinary events. Most of them, moreover, bear evident signs of having been dressed by the compiler into spurious resemblance to the miraculous narrations in the Old and New Testaments, of the Divine dealings with Prophets and Apostles,-Elisha, Jonah, St. Peter, St. Paul, or even of the works of power which attested the mission of our Lord Himself on earth. In reading these, one cannot fail to feel painfully-though the narrator seems quite unconscious of-the irreverence of the travesty. It is noteworthy that some, even of the non-miraculous incidents of the Life appear to have been similarly handled. Thus the account of the stoning of Ephraim outside of Edessa seems modelled after that of St. Paul at Lystra, (Acts. xiv. 19, 20): and the simulated madness by which he evaded the call of the Episcopate is apparently borrowed from the history of David's behavior before Achish and his servants at Gath (1 Sam. xxi. 13-15).

ii. The Demonstrably Incorrect or Contradictory Statements.-Farther, even when we have laid aside all that is seemingly exaggerated, invented or mythical in the Life, there remains much in it that, when critically examined, proves to need correction or to deserve rejection. We proceed to deal with some questions which arise affecting the historical credibility of its narrative.

1. Ephraim's Alleged Heathen Parentage.-The heathen parentage assigned to Ephraim, and consequently the whole narrative of his conversion to Christianity and his consequent troubles, may be without hesitation discredited. They are irreconcilable with his own wordshyperlink (Adv. Haereses, XXVI.), "I was born in the way of truth: though my boyhood understood not the greatness of the benefit, I knew it when trial came." So again more explicitly (if we may trust a Confession which is extant only in Greek), "I had been early taught about Christ by my parents; they who begat me after the flesh, had trained me in the fear of the Lord. . . .My parents were confessors before the judge: yea, I am the kindred of martyrs."

2. The First and Third Sieges of Nisibis.-In the narrative of the siege of Nisibis, and especially of the presence and intercession of St. Jacob the Bishop, there is confusion and grave error. It is certain that in the reign of Constantius (337-361), Nisibis was three times besieged by Sapor.hyperlink The siege in which St. Jacob was within the city took place in the year 338, and he died the same year. The attempt of Sapor to employ the intercepted waters of the Mygdonius for the destruction of its walls, belongs to a later siege-the third, of the year 350-twelve years after the death of Jacob. These two sieges are expressly recorded in the "Paschal (otherwise Alexandrine Chronicle)," followed by Theophanes in his Chronographia (who also mentions briefly the intervening siege of 346); and the account given by the former of these chroniclers (who wrote in the seventh century) rests on the authority of an Epistle written by Valgesh, Bishop of Nisibis in 350, who is eulogized by Ephraim in five of the Nisibene Hymns contained in the present volume (XIII-XVII.). Other contemporary evidence, fuller, and at first hand, to the same effect, is forthcoming from two widely different sources.-As already intimated, the Apostate is here alone with the champion of the Faith.

In his second Orationhyperlink (addressed, probably in the year 358, to Constantius, then Emperor) Julian describes the siege with even more circumstantial detail than our biographer, placing it after the death of Constans, which took place in January 350, and thus confirming the date assigned by the Paschal chronicler and by Theophanes. According to Julian's account, the embankment formed by Sapor, the work of four months,hyperlink was so constructed as to encompass the whole circuit of Nisibis, so that the river intercepted by it "formed a lake in the middle of which the city stood as an island," with "the battlements of its walls barely appearing above the surrounding waters"; and on the surface of this encircling lake, he launched armed vessels and floating war-engines. By these the fortifications were ceaselessly battered for several days,-till of a sudden the river (then in flood) burst its barrier, and carried away not only the embankment but a hundred cubits of the city wall. Through the breach thus made, Sapor pushed forward his cavalry to lead the advance upon the city which lay thus seemingly at his mercy. But they proved unable to overcome the difficulties of the intervening ground-torn up and flooded as it was by the torrent, and traversed moreover by an ancient moat-while the Nisibenes in the energy inspired by their deadly peril, showered missiles upon their assailants as they strove to struggle onward. The Persian next sent on his elephants; but their unwieldly bulk served only to enhance the panic and confusion, and to complete the disaster of his repulse. And when, the next morning, he prepared to renew the assault, he found himself confronted by a new wall, hurriedly raised in the night, to fill the gap in the ramparts, reaching already the height of six feet and manned by fresh and well-armed defenders. Despairing of success against a resistance so obstinate, he raised the siege on which he bad in vain expended so much time, labour, treasure, and blood, and retired ignominiously.

It is needless to add that of the miraculous incidents of the siege as related in the Life, no trace appears in Julian's account. The only Providence he discerns in the successful defence of Nisibis, is that which he attributes to his imperial kinsman to whom his fulsome oratory is addressed.

Of the leading facts, as related by Julian, ample corroboration will be found in the first three of the Nisibene Hymns above referred to. In the first, Ephraim makes Nisibis herself tell the tale of her peril: she compares herself to the Ark of the Flood, compassed, not like it by waters merely, but by "mounds and weapons and waves" (I., 3); but (ib., 6, 8) the wall had not yet given way, for he still speaks of it as standing, and prays that it may continue to stand. This Hymn was therefore written while the siege was still in progress. In the second Hymn he celebrates her deliverance and the manner of it,-the very breach of her walls turned into triumph (II. 5, 7) by their reconstruction and the assault of the besiegers with their elephants (ib., 17, 18, 19), repulsed in disgrace, ending in immediate retreat.hyperlink In the third Hymn, he follows on similar lines; and adds a point, significant in his apprehension, that whereas the wall fell on the Sabbath, it was raised again on the Lord's day, the Day of the Resurrection (III. 6). In all three Hymns, it is again and again implied or asserted that this was the third siege of Nisibis (I. II; II. 5, 19; III. 11, 12)-and farther (as it seems)the third time that a breach had been effected in her walls (I. II; II. 19). In later Hymns also (XI. 14, 15; XIII. 17) the embanked river, bursting forth and breaking down the defences of the city, more than once appears. From one of these we learn incidentally that the Mygdonius flowed past, not through, Nisibis (XIII. 18, 19);hyperlink from which fact it follows that the description in the Life, of the manner in which the Persian engineers employed the river waters against the walls, is to be set aside in so far as it differs from Julian's account as confirmed by the Hymns.

It is remarkable how closely these two accounts, both contemporary with the facts they treat of, agree in all essential points, though coming to us from sources not only independent, but even adverse, inter se,-and in forms so little favourable to exactness of statement as thanksgiving Hymns and encomiastic Orations. When from Ephraim's strophes we omit his pious ascriptions of praise to God, and from Julian's periods, the fulsomeness of his panegyric on the Emperor, the residuum of material fact is in either case much the same; the main outlines of narrative (related or implied) are identical in both writers, each unconsciously attests the truthfulness of the other. Both are farther confirmed in great measure by the account of this siege embodied in the Pascha Chronicle above referred to, which (as already stated) rests on information drawn from a written record left by Valgesh who was Bishop of Nisibis at the time, and to whose prayers Ephraim (Hymn XIII. 17)hyperlink attributed the speedy restoration of the breach in the city wall.

In confusing this siege (of 350, in the time of Valgesh), with the previous one (of 338, in the time of Jacob), our biographer, with most subsequent writers down to the eighteenth century, has been misled by following Theodoret's narration in his Ecclesiastical History (II. 30).hyperlink The account of the siege given in the Life is in fact a mere reproduction, somewhat abridged, and slightly varied, of Theodoret's, from which it derives also its computation of the time occupied by the siege as but twenty days,-a period obviously inadequate for the vast engineering works for which the four months assigned by Julian are certainly not too much,-as well as its description of the method and aim of those works. In Theodoret likewise are found the two supernatural incidents of Sapor's discomfiture, both repeated in the Life,-neither of which is affirmed or even hinted at by Ephraim any more than by Julian; the appearance of the Imperial Phantom on the wall, and the plague of insects sent in answer to Jacob's, or, as the Life has it, to Ephraim's prayer. Of these, the former, but not the latter, finds place in the Paschal Chronicle, and (in exaggerated form) in Theophanes. Whether, in this instance, the chronicler's statement, which is guardedly expressed,hyperlink or any nucleus of it, was derived from the Epistle of Valgesh,-or whether he borrowed it from Theodoret or some one of Theodoret's sources, or some such authority-is matter of conjecture.hyperlink

3. Constantius and Constans.-The Life errs grossly (as already noticed) in making Constans, who died in 350, and never reigned in the East, the successor of his brother Constantius, who survived till 361.

4. The Alleged Sojourn in Egypt.-The sojourn of Ephraim for eight years in Egypt, after he had taken up his abode in Egypt, and before his visit to Cappadocia, is impossible. It was in July, 363, that Nisibis was surrendered to Persia by Jovian, which court was the cause, as the Life (no doubt rightly) states, of Ephraim's final departure from that city to Beth-Garbaia, thence to Amid, and finally, "at the end of the year," to Edessa. It follows, therefore, that he did not reach Edessa till 364. In Edessa, or in his cell on the adjacent "Mount" according to the Life, he lived, worked, wrote commentaries and polemical discourses, taught, and formed a school of disciples, before his alleged journey to Egypt. It is therefore implied that he spent years in or near Edessa before he set out on that journey, which cannot therefore be placed so early as 365. Even if we assign to it the improbably early date of 366, the eight years in Egypt bring us to 374, or at earliest 373, for his visit to the Caesarean Cappadocia. Now there is a prevailing weight of testimony to the effect that Ephraim died in 373, which date, if accepted, leaves no time for the incidents of his life after his return to Edessa. This, however, cannot be urged against our biographer, who (as will be shown) assumes that he lived till 379. But the Life represents him as resident in or near Edessa during the persecution which that city suffered from the Emperor Valens, which (as stated above, p. 132) took place probably in 371; certainly not later than 372, at which date (according to the biographer) he was still in Egypt. In fact, even without going into particulars, it is evident that between Ephraim's arrival in Edessa in 364 and the persecution of Valens in 370-2, the eight years' sojourn in Egypt and the visit to Cappadocia would so fill the interval as to leave no time for the prolonged Edessa residence, before and after that sojourn, which the Life, in common with all other authorities, attributes to Ephraim, and in virtue of which his name is inseparably associated with the history of Edessa.


18 The Seven Aeons (or Beings) of Bardesan's heresy; see Opp. Syr. II., p. 550.

19 The heretic Apollinaris seems to have been a younger man than Ephraim, whom he survived by some years. Possibly his father, the elder Apollinaris, is here intended. But he is not recorded as having taught heresy.

20 To this church were translated the bones of St. Thomas the Apostle, from his burial place in India, in the time of Eulogius the successor of Barses (378-387),-as we learn from Barhebr(us, Chronicon Eccles. I. 21 (p.65 of Abbeloos and Lamy's edition). But the above narrative, as confirmed by Socrates (IV. 18), shows that it had been built and was held in special reverence before that. It is the church at which our History places the healing of the paralytic (above). Sozomen's account (VI. 17) in the main agrees; also Theodoret's (lV. 17).

21 Baronius, Annales, IV. p. 308. The Vatican Life reads Julian for Valens in this narrative, thus introducing inexplicable preplexity into the chronology. Julian died before Ephraim became a resident of Edessa.

22 Printed in Overbeck's Ephraemi S. Opera Selecta, p. 137; also in the (Roman) Opera Graeca, at the end of Tom. II., p. 395.

23 St. Matth. xxvii. 46.

24 i.e., as a relic.

25 The allusion is to the legend that Abgar, King of Edessa, hearing the fame of the Lord Jesus, sent a letter inviting him to his city, and received in reply a letter from Him conveying His blessing, and a promise to send a disciple to teach him and his people. This promise was afterwards fulfilled by the mission of Thaddeus (Addae) to Edessa. (Eusebius, Hist. Eccles. I. 13.)

26 The Greek version has "may heal." The Syriac may be brought to agree with this, by changing t into r in the verb used.

27 The sect of Ophites.

28 See Opera Graeca, Tom. II., p.230; Ephraim Syr. Graece, p.365 Oxford edition).

29 There is no ground for supposing that Gregory could read Syriac. It follows therefore that some of Ephraim's wntings must have been at a very early date translated into Greek; and that one of these was the Testament which Gregory refers to no less than five times in the Encomium.

30 This is related also in the Greek version of the Testament, but is an evident interpolation. It is not in the Syriac.

31 This has been pointed out by Dr. Payne Smith (Dict.of Christan Biography, Vol.II., p.137), who cites the passages here adduced, from Opp. Syr. II. 499; Opp. Gr. I.129.

32 This was first clearly established by Spanheim (Observationes in Julianum, pp. 183 ff., 188ff.; 1696) in part anticipated by Petave (Petavius) and de Valois (Valesius). He has been followed in this by nearly all historians, including Gibbon (Decline and Fall. chap. xviii)

33 Juliani Orationes, ed. Spanheim (1666), Orat. II., pp.62 ff .; see also pp.26 ff (Orat. I.).

34 The Life gives but seventy days as the whole duration of the siege-a period quite insufficient for the construction of the embankment.

35 Ephraim seems to convey that Sapor, when repulsed, at once withdrew : Julian represents his withdrawal as gradual. The former probably has in view the raising of the siege; the latter, the retreat from the invaded territory.

36 Compare Sachau's description, Reise, pp. 390, 391.

37 That Valgesh is the "third" Bishop here meant, appears by comparison with Hymn XVII. 2, where the three are named, Jacob, Babu (not elsewhere mentioned), and Valgesh.

38 So (e.g.) Baronius, Annales (s. q. 338); Ada Sanctorumi, Febr. (I. p. 51). A few quite recent writers follow these. This error of Theodoret thus ascribing to the first siege the events which belong to the history of the third, is easily accounted for. His narrative of the siege and the breaching of the walls, the apparition, and St. Jacob's prayer answered by the plague of mosquitoes, originally appeared in his earlier work, the Religious History-a collection of lives of miracle-working saints of whom St. Jacob stands first-from which (as he himself notes) he has transferred it with little change, to his Ecclesiastical History. As the biographer of this, the greatest Bishop of Nisibis, Theodoret would naturally associate with his name all that history or tradition reported of Divine protection extended to the city in her perils-especially in those of her last and most signal siege which ended in her most signal deliverance. He probably knew that a siege of Nisibis had occurred in St. Jacob's time, and would readily overlook the brief interval of twelve years by which the saint's death preceded the later siege.

One of the Nisibene Hymns (XIII. 18, 19, 21) suggests a further explanation how this third siege came to be attached to the legend of St. Jacob. His body was treasured reverently in the city, and to its presence her deliverance was attributed. Thus, he was still (in Ephraim's words) "the fountain within her," "the fruit in her bosom," "the body laid within her that became for her a wall without." The traditions of that dead presence in the last siege, and of his living presence in the first, would soon blend together; and the expression of pious gratitude for the protection ascribed by the besieged of 350 to the virtue of his remains, would be mistaken as evidence that the man himself was among them to help them by his prayers and exhortations in the struggle by which the fall of their city was so narrowly averted.

39 In the Chronicle, we read that Sapor saw, in the daytime, "a man running to and fro on the walls," in the likeness of the Emperor; but again, we are told of "the angel that appeared." In Theodoret's narratives the apparition wears the royal "purple and diadem," and is described as "divine" (Hist. Relig.), and "incorporeal" (Hist. Eccles.). In the Chronography, "an angel stands on the tower, in shining raiment, holding by the hand the Emperor Constantius"; a duplication of the vision which seemingly arose from a misunderstanding of the Chronicle.

That Constantius was not in Nisibis during this siege, is a point on which all authorities are agreed. Jilian, while lavishing on the Emperor unmeasured praises for the repulse of Sapor, attributes it not to his personal presence, but to his foresight in previous preparations made a year before. He is known, however, to have sojourned in the city in May, 345,-see Cod Theodosianus, (XI. 7, 5) for a law issued thence by him on the 12th of that month (Lex. 5 de exactionibuss).

40 The Nisibene Hymns, only recovered some fifty years ago from the Nitrian Monastery of the Theotokos, and first printed in 1866, yielding as they do authoritative and contemporary confirmation of the accounts of the siege given by Julian and by Valgesh, come in as decisive evidence to prove that the Chronicler of the seventh century and the Chronographer of the ninth had better fortune or better judgment in their choice of authorities than Theodoret in the fifth. It is, moreover, a signal instance of the true historical instinct that guided Gibbon in his great work, that in relating this history (ch. xviii.), he followed Julian and the Chronicle, and refused to he misled (as our biographer was) by Theodoret-except as regards St. Jacob whom he supposed to have been still Bishop in 350.

The first to point out this error as to St. Jacob, was Valesius in his note on the passage in Theodoret (H. E. II.30), as above. He remarked that "the Alexandrine (Paschal) Chronicle makes Vologeses (Valgesh), not Jacob, Bishop of Nisibis in 350." It was replied (and with justice) that the Chronicle, though it records the siege, and cites the Epistle of Valgesh, Bishop of the city, does not say that he was Bishop at the time of the siege. Another Chronicle, the Edessene (a relic of the sixth century), first printed by Assemani in 1719 (Biblioth. Orient. I., pp.388 ff.) determines 338 as the date of Jacob's death, and 361 as that of Valgesh. Our Nisibene Hymns (see above,note 4) make it plain that Valgesh was bishop in 350, as Valesius rightly (though on insufficient grounds) laid down.