From my diary – still more Phrantzolas and Ephraem Graecus

I have now looked through all the volumes of the Phrantzolas edition of Ephraem Graecus, (except for volume 2 which I do not have), and added all the page numbers of the works, as printed in it, to the file of works and page numbers and editions that I am building up.

Probably I shall have to buy a paper copy of volume 2 in order to do the rest.  It’s 40 euros, tho, including postage from Greece, so I have hesitated.

I’ve also created an XML version of the file, which I’ve sent over to the Pinakes people so that they can add in the Assemani page numbers to their page on the works of Ephraim Graecus.  Their list of works is that of the Phrantzolas edition.

The Phrantzolas edition of Ephraim Graecus is clearly now the “standard edition”.  The Greek text is printed in a modern typeface – the early 18th century Assemani is hardly readable.  The choice of contents is more restricted than Assemani; but many of the “works” listed by Assemani are duplicates, as everyone acknowledges.  It is unfortunate that this edition is present in few western libraries.  None is listed in COPAC for the UK, for instance.

However it is a great pity that K. Phrantzolas did not add a few pages to his work, and explain just why each work or fragment in Assemani was, or was not, included.  All we have is the product of his labour, and his modern Greek translation.  So for works listed in Assemani, but not included by Phrantzolas, the reader is left to wonder whether the item is actually a duplicate, a fragment, and if so, of what?

But with 156 works in Phrantzolas’ 7 volumes, the researcher has plenty to work on!  Also all the works have a modern Greek translation, which will help some; and Assemani prints a Latin translation of all the works he prints.  So even without knowledge of ancient Greek, a researcher should be able to work with the corpus.

I intend to place online my own concordance of the works printed by Phrantzolas, with the pages of Assemani, and a Greek text found online for most of them.  I’m not quite sure what format would be most useful, tho.

My time of leisure is probably coming to an end, and I shall have to go back to work.  So getting that online will be a convenient stopping point for Ephraim Graecus.  I shall try to do that in the next couple of days.


From my diary

On Saturday I was working on a text file containing the works of Ephraem Graecus, as they appear in the Phrantzolas edition, with CPG numbers and Assemani page numbers.  This proved much more difficult than I had at first thought, and I was reduced to opening the PDFs of the Greek text and looking at the opening words in the index of initia in the CPG volume 5.

At various points it became obvious that it would be very helpful if I had a PDF of the CPG that was searchable.

I don’t possess the volumes of the CPG and never have.  The price puts them outside the reach of the layman.  (I do possess a copy of the CPL, however, because Brepols issued a paperback of it).  So, like most people, I am dependent on PDFs made up of photos taken with a mobile phone by someone or other.  These are always askew, and can’t be made searchable.

However… in my directory of CPG files, I discovered a set of 5 PDFs where the images of each double-page were pretty much square on, and also in grey-scale.  I never used them, as the grey-scale was faint, and unpleasant to look at.  But I started to experiment.

I pulled one volume into Finereader 12, with the options set to automatically split pairs of pages into two.  To my amazement this worked fine, without need for correction (in subsequent volumes I had to manually split a dozen pages).

The single page images were still a rubbishy hard-to-read grey, however.  I then tried saving the images out of FR12 to disk, as black and white .png files.  I hoped that these would be readable and … it worked!  The original images were such high resolution that the black-and-white versions were just fine.

The new page images were also much more readable, being black and white.

I then combined all the B/W images into a new PDF file, which became my new volume of the CPG.  So now I had a PDF of perfectly readable, square-on, single pages, in black and white.

I wanted to make this searchable.  Ideally the Greek should be searchable as Greek, and the Latin as Latin.  I am not clear how to do this.  One idea would be to pull the black and white images back into FR12, OCR them, and then let FR12 create a searchable PDF.  This might well work;  but the PDFs created by Finereader tend to be huge.  And… would the ancient Greek really work?

What I did instead was to use Adobe Acrobat Pro 9 to OCR the B/W PDFs.  This makes the Latin text more or less searchable.  It’s a start.

I’ve had to pause work on this for much of today in order to do a job interview, but I am resuming the process for all the volumes tonight.  Then I shall return to the Phrantzolas file, with the aid of searchable PDFs.

The job interview was successful, so I may have to go back to work next week!  Whatever I am to do must be done now!


From my diary – more Phrantzolas and Ephraem Graecus

At the  moment I am plodding away through a tedious but necessary task.

On the web here, there is a page which purports to be a list of all the works of Ephraem Graecus, as they appear in the seven volume Phrantzolas translation / edition.  It also links to a PDF with the ancient Greek text of most of them.

It’s fairly obvious that this is a useful item, which would be much more useful if it had the CPG number for each work, and the page numbers in the Assemani edition, and indeed the page numbers for the works in the Phrantzolas edition.  So I have begun to prepare a version of it, in just such a form.

Boy it is hard work!

I’d naively assumed that Phrantzolas wouldn’t resequence the works from the order in which they appear in Assemani.  This is largely, but not completely true.

I knew that he omitted “texts” which are duplicate, printing in each case the longest version.  I had not realised quite how wholesale the omissions are.  In fact, we really need a cross-reference table for each work, indicating which of the several  versions in Assemani has been translated by Phrantzolas.  But this does not seem to be in the edition.  Indeed Phrantzolas states that an index volume will be published separately.  Unfortunately I have not been able to locate any details of such a volume.

Clearly Ephraem Graecus scholarship needs to start with some basic bibliographical tasks, requiring no more than the skills of a research assistant.  But this is a very necessary task, which is as yet undone.

So… I have been driven back to work from the original list.  I find that in CPG volume 5 there is a list of authors and (Latin titles) in alphabetical order, which helps quite a lot.  There is also a list of Greek initial words (initia), which also (but not always) helps.

Slowly, slowly I drive this forward.  I am in volume 4 at the moment.  I’ve not added the Phrantzolas page numbers as yet – I’ll do a second pass for these.

I’m editing in raw HTML, as this gives me some interesting capabilities for bulk find-and-replace.  I’m not convinced, either, about the format.

Nor am I certain that the result would be best hosted here.  I wonder if perhaps the Saint Ephraim site ( might be a better place?  Oh well.  First create the thing.


Ephraem Graecus and John Wesley

The name of John Wesley is not well-remembered today; and indeed the same could be said of the organisation that he founded, the Methodist church.  Born and raised as an Anglican high churchman, he was converted and became one of the most important figures of the 18th century.

Few will be aware that he refers to Ephraim the Syrian in his copious works, which in the 1872 Methodist Conference edition fill 14 volumes.  But he does.  Let’s hear the words of Ephrem Lash, in his article “The Greek Writings Attributed to Saint Ephrem the Syrian”, in: Abba: The Tradition of Orthodoxy in the West, 2003.  Page 90:

In more recent times [the works of Ephraim Graecus] have attracted the attention of people as diverse as … John Wesley, who had a particular fondness for Ephrem, and refers to him a number of times in his journals. In his Fourth Savannah Journal, on 12 October 1736 at Frederica in Georgia, he describes him as “The most awakening writer, I think, of all the ancients.” Eleven years later, in Newcastle, he wrote in his journal on Ash Wednesday, 4 March 1747, “I spent some days in reading ‘The Exhortations of Ephrem Syrus.’ Surely never did any man, since David, give us such a picture of a broken and contrite heart.”

Wesley was almost certainly using the Oxford edition of 1709, since the Greek volumes of Assemani were only published in 1732, 1743 and 1746. He cannot, despite what some of his biographers have written, have been using the Syriac texts, since these the first of these was only published in 1737; with the other two following in 1740 and 1743.

Wesley also seems to have known what is, I suspect, the earliest work of Ephrem to be translated into English, which was published by W. Bowyer in 1731.[29] It is a pamphlet of some fifty pages in small quarto. Only seven copies are known to exist, three of which are in the USA. Neither the British Library nor any Oxford library possesses a copy; there is, however one in Liverpool University Library, which I have been able to consult.

The translator is anonymous, but was almost certainly the publisher, William Bowyer, who was a good Greek and Latin scholar. The translation was made from Thwaites’s Oxford edition of the Greek, together with the Cologne edition of Gerard Vossius’s 16th century Latin translation. It is the sermon known as the Sermo Compunctorius, which is to be found in the first volume of Assemani’s edition on pages twenty-eight to forty.

Apart from this extremely rare edition, nothing of the Greek Ephrem has been published in English, so far as I am aware, except for the Prayer of Saint Ephrem, of which there are numerous versions.

[29] … The title is, “A Serious Exhortation to Repentance and Sorrow for Sin, and a strict and mortified Life; written about the Middle of the Fourth Century by St. Ephraim, the Cyrian [sic], Deacon of Edessa. Translated into English from the Greek and Latin compared.”

I wonder what would be necessary to get the Liverpool University Library copy of this translation online?  This particular Sermo Compunctorius is CPG 3908.

Lash gives us just two quotes, neither very well referenced.  The first, from 1736, and indeed before his conversion, is in fact on p.42 of the 1872 edition of the Works of John Wesley.  It reads:

Tues. Oct. 12.—We considered if any thing could yet be done for the poor people of Frederica ; and I submitted to the judgment of my friends ; which was, that I should take another journey thither: Mr. Ingham undertaking to supply my place at Savannah, for the time I should stay there. I came hither on Saturday, the 16th, and found few things better than I expected. The morning and evening prayers, which were read for a while after my leaving the place, had been long discontinued; and from that time every thing grew worse and worse, not many retaining any more of the form than the power of godliness.

I was at first a little discouraged, but soon remembered the Lord which cannot fail: “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” I cried to God to “arise and maintain his own cause;” and after the evening prayers were ended, invited a few to my house; as I did every night while I stayed at Frederica. I read to them one of the exhortations of Ephraim Syrus: The most awakening writer, I think, of all the ancients. We concluded our reading and conversation with a psalm ; and I trust our God gave us his blessing.

The second passage is in volume 2, pages 47-48:

Wed. 4.—(Being Ash-Wednesday.) I spent some hours in reading “The Exhortations of Ephrem Syrus.” Surely never did any man, since David, give us such a picture of a broken
and contrite heart.

I had intended to search all of the volumes of the edition.  But as we all know, Google Books is terribly bad at handling multi-volume series.  I was quite unable to locate volumes 3 and 5 of the edition, although I am quite certain that they are there somewhere.

Another article on the same subject is by Gordon Wakefield, “John Wesley and Ephraim Syrus”, in: Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies, Vol. 1.2 (1998) 273-286.  He writes:

In 1756, in his “Address to the Clergy,” he writes: Can any who spend several years in those seats of learning (the universities) be excused if they do not add to that of the languages and the sciences, the knowledge of the fathers.—the most authentic commentators on Scripture as being both nearest the fountain and eminently endued with that Spirit by whom ““all Scripture was given”” [cf. 2 Timothy 3:16]……

I speak chiefly of those who wrote before the Council of Nicea. But who would not likewise desire to have some acquaintance with those that followed then——with St. Chrysostom, Basil, Jerome, Austin, and, above all the man of a broken heart, Ephraim Syrus?[3]

3. Volume 10, p.484.


In his letter of 1749 to the Cambridge deist Conyers Middleton, who asserted that “miraculous powers” ceased with the Apostolic Age, he recognises the Fathers’ limitations and mistakes. He does not regard them as powerful intellectuals, but they were Christians and describe “true, genuine Christianity.”

He writes “I mean particularly Clemens Romanus, Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origen, Clemens Alexandrinus, Cyprian, to whom I would add Macarius and Ephraim Syrus..” In that letter, marred by his careless garbling of Middleton’s text, he has sixty pages of analysis of patristic authors to refute his antagonist, though Middleton had not written specifically against Wesley. … [4]

4. Works, vol. X, 1-79.


Wesley read Ephraim in sermon preparation. He was too inclined to be influenced by the latest book he had read, but Ephraim was a permanent guide and he included him with authors ancient and modern in his required reading for his assistants. He once said that Ephraim was .“the most awakening writer among all the ancients.” and translated one of his stories.

Unfortunately there is no reference given to allow us to locate the story translated by Wesley.

I have searched the volumes of the 1872 edition that I have, and have found a couple more slight references to Ephrem (or Ephraim).

In volume 7, p.424 (sermon 132, “On laying the foundation of the new chapel near the city-road, London”, April 21, 1777), we find this:

3. This is the religion of the primitive Church, of the whole Church in the purest ages. It is clearly expressed, even in the small remains of Clemens Romanus, Ignatius, and Polycarp; it is seen more at large in the writings of Tertullian, Origen, Clemens Alexandrinus, and Cyprian; and, even in the fourth century, it was found in the works of Chrysostom, Basil, Ephrem Syrus, and Macarius. It would be easy to produce “a cloud of witnesses,” testifying the same thing; were not this a point which no one will contest, who has the least acquaintance with Christian antiquity.

In the same volume, p.459, Sermon 134, “True Christianity Defended”, June 24, 1741 (a Latin copy of the same sermon also exists among the Wesley papers; probably to be preached at Oxford):

7. Know ye not then so much as this, you that are called moral men, that all idleness is immorality; that there is no grosser dishonesty than sloth; that every voluntary blockhead is a knave He defrauds his benefactors, his parents, and the world; and robs both God and his own soul.

Yet how many of these are among us! How many lazy drones, as if only fruges consumere nati! “born to eat up the produce of the soil.” How many whose ignorance is not owing to incapacity, but to mere laziness! How few, (let it not seem immodest that even such a one as I should touch on that tender point) of the vast number who have it in their power, are truly learned men!

Not to speak of the other eastern tongues, who is there that can be said to understand Hebrew? Might I not say, or even Greek? A little of Homer or Xenophon we may still remember; but how few can readily read or understand so much as a page of Clemens Alexandrinus, Chrysostom, or Ephrem Syrus?

And as to philosophy, (not to mention mathematics, or the abstruser branches of it,) how few do we find who have laid the foundation,–who are masters even of logic; who thoroughly understand so much as the rules of syllogizing; the very doctrine of the moods and figures ! O what is so scarce as learning, save religion?

That’s all that there is.  Which “exhortations” Wesley read we cannot say, beyond the one mentioned above.  Thwaites edition is not online.  The Bowyer translation is not online.

Let’s end with a longer version of one of the passages above, which is interesting for its own sake, from volume 10, 78 f., in the reply to Conyers Middleton.

Fifthly. What reasonable assurance can you have of things whereof you have not personal experience? Suppose the question were, Can the blind be restored to sight? This you have not yourself experienced. How then will you know that such a thing ever was?

Can there be an easier or surer way than to talk with one or some number of men who were blind, but are now restored to sight? They cannot be deceived as to the fact in question; the nature of the thing leaves no room for this. And if they are honest men, (which you may learn from other circumstances,) they will not deceive you.

Now, transfer this to the case before us: And those who were blind, but now see, — those who were sick many years, but now are healed,—those who were miserable, but now are happy, will afford you also a very strong evidence of the truth of Christianity; as strong as can be in the nature of things, till you experience it in your own soul. And this, though it be allowed they are but plain men, and, in general, of weak understanding; nay, though some of them should be mistaken in other points, and hold opinions which cannot be defended.

11. All this may be allowed concerning the primitive Fathers, I mean particularly Clemens Romanus, Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origen, Clemens Alexandrinus, Cyprian; to whom I would add Macarius and Ephraim Syrus.

I allow that some of these had not strong natural sense, that few of them had much learning, and none the assistances which our age enjoys in some respects above all that went before.

Hence I doubt not but whoever will be at the pains of reading over their writings for that poor end, will find many mistakes, many weak suppositions, and many ill-drawn conclusions.

12. And yet I exceedingly reverence them, as well as their writings, and esteem them very highly in love. I reverence them, because they were Christians, such Christians as are above described. And I reverence their writings, because they describe true, genuine Christianity, and direct us to the strongest evidence of the Christian doctrine.

Indeed, in addressing the Heathens of those times, they intermix other arguments; particularly, that drawn from the numerous miracles which were then performed in the
Church; which they needed only to open their eyes and see daily wrought in the face of the sun.

But still they never relinquish this: “What the Scripture promises, I enjoy. Come and see what Christianity has done here; and acknowledge it is of God.”

I reverence these ancient Christians (with all their failings) the more, because I see so few Christians now; because I read so little in the writings of later times, and hear so little, of genuine Christianity; and because most of the modern Christians, (so called,) not content with being wholly ignorant of it, are deeply prejudiced against it, calling it enthusiasm, and I know not what.

That the God of power and love may make both them, and you, and me, such Christians as those Fathers were, is the earnest prayer of, Reverend Sir,

Your real friend and servant,

John Wesley

January 24, 1748-9.

Interesting indeed.

UPDATE: (7 Nov 2018).  Commenter “Diego” has located volume 3.  This contains part of John Wesley’s journal.  On p.56 (Thu 21 May 1761) we find the following entry, with the story that was mentioned.

Thur. 21.—I was much struck with a story told by Ephraim Syrus. I wonder it was never translated into English. It is as follows :—

“My beloved brethren, I have a desire to relate to you what our brother Abraham did in his old age. This blessed man had a brother according to the flesh, who had an only child. When her father fell asleep she remained an orphan. Her friends brought her to him, being six years old. He ordered her to be placed in the outer cell : He himself abode in the inner. A little door was between them. He taught her the Psalms and the other Scriptures, and watched and sang with her. And as he lived an austere life, so did she, willingly profiting in every exercise, and labouring to excel in all virtues. The holy man often besought God for her with tears, that her heart might be fixed on God, and not entangled with the care of worldly things; for her father had left her much wealth, which by his advice she gave to the poor. And she entreated him, saying, ‘Pray for me, that I may be delivered from evil thoughts, and from all the wiles and snares of the devil.’ The blessed man rejoiced, seeing her good conversation, and forwardness, and tears; her lowliness, meekness, quietness of spirit, and earnest love to God. And for twenty years she thus exercised herself with him, as a fair lamb, a spotless dove.

“When the twentieth year was fulfilled, the devil was mad against her, and lay in wait to get her into his net. There was a man, in name religious, but not in truth, who frequently came to consult Abraham. He saw the maid, and his heart burned within him. He lay in wait for her a whole year, till her heart was inflamed also : And opening the door of her cell, she went out to him, and consented to his will. But no sooner had she committed wickedness, than she rent her clothes, smote her breast, and thought of putting an end to her own life; for she said in herself, ‘Now I am dead, and I have lost all my time and all my labour, and my austerity and my tears are perished, and I have destroyed my own soul, and I have brought sorrow upon the man of God, and am become a laughing-stock to the devil : Why do I live any longer? Ah me, what have I done! Ah me! from whence, how low am I fallen! How shall I be hid? Where shall I go? Into what pit shall I cast myself? Where is the exhortation of the blessed man, Keep thy soul spotless for thy immortal Bride groom? I dare no more look up to Heaven! I am lost both to God and men. I dare not approach that holy man, sinner as I am, and full of uncleanness. Were I to make such an attempt, surely fire would come out of that door, and consume me. It is better for me to go where none knows me; for I am undone, and there is no salvation for me!’ And rising up, she went straight to another city, and became servant at an inn.

“A little before this, Abraham saw a vision;—a dragon, great and terrible, rising out of his place ; and, coming to his cell, he found a dove, and devoured it, and then returned to his place. The holy man, coming to himself, was much troubled, and wept bitterly, and said, ‘ Thou, Lord, knowest all things ; and thou only knowest what this vision meaneth.’ After two days he saw the same dragon again; and he came out of his place to the blessed man, and, laying his head under Abraham’s feet, burst asunder, and the dove was found alive in the dragon’s belly.

“Coming to himself, he called once and again, saying, ‘Child, where art thou? Behold, here are two days that thou hast not opened thy mouth in the praise of God.” Finding that none answered, and that she was not there, he perceived the vision related to her; and he groaned in spirit, and said, ‘ O Saviour of the world, bring back this lamb into thy fold, that my grey hairs come not down with sorrow to the grave! Lord, despise not my supplication; but send down thy hand, and take her out of the mouth of the dragon that hath devoured her!’

“After a season he heard where she was; and, having learned all things concerning her, he called one of his friends, and said to him, ‘Bring me an horse and the habit of a soldier.’ And having put it on, with a large cap on his head, he left his cell, and rode away. Being come to the place, he alighted, and went in ; and, after a time, said to the inn keeper, ‘Friend, I have heard thou hast a beautiful damsel here : Call her to me, that I may rejoice with her.’ Being called, she came. When the holy man saw her in her harlot’s attire, he was melting into tears; but he refrained himself, that she might not perceive it. After they sat down, she embraced him, and kissed his neck; and she smelled the smell of his cell, and called to mind past things; and, groaning deeply, said, ‘Woe is me! What am I?’ The inn-keeper, being astonished, said, ‘Mary, thou hast now been with us two years, and I never heard thee groan before, or heard such a word from thee. What is come to thee?’ She answered, ‘Would I had died three years since ; then I had been happy.’

“Immediately Abraham said to him, ‘Prepare us a supper, that we may rejoice together ; for I am come from far for her sake.’ After supper she said to him, ‘Let us go into the chamber.’ And when they were come in, he saw a bed made ready; and he sat upon it, and said, ‘Make fast the door.’ She made it fast, and came to him. Having taken hold of her, so that she could not run away, he took off his cap, and said to her, weeping, ‘ My child, Mary, dost thou not know me? Am not I he that brought thee up? Mary, what is come to thee ? Who hath destroyed thee, my daughter? Where are thy prayers and thy tears, thy watching and holy exercise? My child, when thou hadst sinned, why didst thou not tell me, that I might have humbled myself for thee? My daughter, why hast thou done this? Why hast thou forsaken thy father?’ She remained in his hands as a lifeless stone, till he said to her with tears, ‘ Dost thou not speak to me, my child, Mary? Dost thou not speak to me? Am I not come hither for thy sake? I have besought the Lord concerning thee.’ Till midnight he continued exhorting and comforting her. Then, coming a little to herself, she said to him weeping, ‘I cannot look at thee, for I am defiled with sin.’ The blessed man replied, ‘On me be thy sin; only come, let us go to our place.’ She said to him, ‘ If it be possible for me to repent, and if God can accept my repentance, I come, and I fall down, and kiss thy steps, wetting them with my tears, that thou hast thus had compassion on me, a forlorn wretch, and art come hither to draw me out of the mire of sin.’ And laying her head at his feet, she wept bitterly all the night; saying, ‘What shall I render thee for all thy benefits?’

“Early in the morning he set her upon the horse, and went before her with great joy. And being come to his place, he put her in the inner cell; where she gladly resumed her former
exercise, with sackcloth and ashes, and much humiliation, with mourning and watching, and ceaseless calling upon God: And the merciful Lord gave her a sign that he accepted her repentance, healing many that were sick, through her prayers.

“Holy Abraham lived ten years after, beholding her good conversation, and blessing, and praising, and magnifying God. Then, having lived seventy years, he slept in peace. Mary survived him thirty and five years, calling upon God night and day ; insomuch that all who passed by glorified God, who saveth them that were gone astray.”

Now that I see it, I recall reading this in Wesley’s journal.  But I had not remembered that it was from Ephraim Graecus.  I wonder which Greek text this is?

Now I think about it, if Ephraim was “required reading for his assistants”, then Wesley must specify somewhere which bits of it must be required.  I wonder where this list might be.


Ephraem Graecus: the Phrantzolas edition (part 5)

Well, well.  At the start of volume 7 of the Phrantzolas edition of Ephraim Graecus, there is an additional introduction!  Let’s see what it says, shall we?  (Here are the pages – click to enlarge)

Once again I have OCRd them, and run the result through Google Translate.  We get this:

Αντί επιλόγου

Μέ τόν παρόντα Ζ’ τόμο ολοκληρώνεται ή έκδοση των Έργων του μεγάλου καί θεοφόρου Πατρός μας Όσιου Έφραίμ του Σύρου, ώστε νά γίνει προσιτή σέ όλους ή θεόπνευστη διδασκαλία του.

Τήν καλή αφορμή, γιά νά έπιχειρήσουμε τήν παρούσα έκδοση, πρόσφεραν σ’ εμάς Αγιορείτες Πατέρες, καί τό βάρος καί τή θεάρεστη φροντίδα γιά τήν πραγματοποίησή της έπωμίσθηκαν μέ προθυμία οί εκλεκτοί φίλοι έκδότες των Εκδόσεων «Τό Περιβόλι της Παναγίας». Άπό τή θέση μάλιστα αυτή θεωρούμε χρέος νά έκφράσουμε τίς ευχαριστίες μας στόν υπεύθυνο των Εκδόσεων γιά τήν πολύτιμη συνεργασία καί συμμετοχή σέ όλα τά στάδια της επίπονης διαδικασίας της έκδοσης αυτής.

Άπό τήν άρχή άνέκυψε όξύ τό πρόβλημα της άναζήτησης των έλληνικών μεταφράσεων των ’Έργων του Σύρου Πατρός. Γι’ αυτό καί ή προσοχή μας στράφηκε στήν άνεύρεση των παλαιών καί των νεώτερων εκδόσεων, καί των χειρογράφων.

Στό στάδιο αυτό μάς συμπαραστάθηκαν πατρικώς οί Σεβαστοί Γέροντες, π. Χαραλάμπης, Ηγούμενος της Ί. Μ. Διονυσίου, καί π. Γρηγόριος, Ηγούμενος της Ί. Μ. Δοχειαρίου, καθώς καί ό σεβαστός καί άγαπητός π. Νικόδημος, Μοναχός Άγιοπαυλίτης, τούς όποιους καί εύσεβάστως ευχαριστούμε.

Ευχαριστούμε επίσης τόν ’Ομότιμο Καθηγητή της Θεολογικής Σχολής τού Πανεπιστημίου ’Αθηνών κ. Γεώργιο Γαλίτη, καί τόν Επίκουρο Καθηγητή τής Φιλοσοφικής Σχολής τού Πανεπιστημίου Θεσσαλονίκης κ. Παναγιώτη Σωτηρούδη, γιά τό άμέριστο ένδιαφέρον μέ τό όποιο μάς συμπαραστάθηκαν στήν έκδοσή μας.

Τή μνεία ώστόσο τού μακαριστού Γέροντος Έφραίμ, Ηγουμένου τής Ί. Μ. Ξηροποτάμου, αισθανόμαστε έπιβεβλημένη γιά τό πατρικό ένδιαφέρον πού έδειξε γιά τήν πραγματοποίηση τής άπόφασής μας.

Τό άρχαΐο κείμενο τής παρούσας έκδοσης άντλήσαμε άπό τίς παλαιότυπες έκδόσεις τών Ed.Thwaites (’Οξφόρδη, 1709) καί J. S. Assemani (Ρώμη, 1732-1746), άλλά καί άπό νεώτερους έκδότες-έρευνητές. Παράλληλα άναζητήσαμε στούς χειρόγραφους κώδικες κείμενα τών Λόγων τού Σύρου Πατρός, άνέκδοτα ώς τώρα. Πολύ χρήσιμη στάθηκε ή έργασία τού Μ. Geerard (Clavis Patrum Graecorum), όπου έχουν καταχωρηθεΐ τά άποτελέσματα τής έρευνας στό χώρο τής έφραίμειας γραμματείας.

’Ανέκδοτα κείμενα πού άντλήσαμε άπό χειρόγραφους κώδικες, είναι τά εξής:

1. Λόγος περί τής άναστάσεως, έν τοίς έγκαινίοις, καί περί τού άγιου μνήματος (Χειρόγραφο άριθ. 244 ΜΠΤ τής Εθνικής Βιβλιοθήκης ’Αθηνών, ΙΔ’ αί., φύλλα 60r-62v).

2. Λόγος έν τώ σταυρώ, έπί των έγκαινίων, καί περί τοϋ άγιου ξύλου του σταυροϋ (Χειρόγραφο άριθ. 244 ΜΠΤ τής Εθνικής Βιβλιοθήκης Αθηνών, ΙΔ’ αί., φύλλα 62v-65r).

3. Πώς ό ληστής προ τής άναστάσεως είσήλθεν εις τον παράδεισον (Χειρόγραφο άριθ. 115 τής Ί. Μ. Δοχειαρίου Αγίου Όρους, ΙΕ’ αί., φύλλο 157).

4. Λόγος εις τό μαρτύριον του άγιου μεγαλομάρτυρος Βονιφατίου (Χειρόγραφο άριθ. 4887.767 τής Ί. Μ. Ίβήρων Αγίου Όρους, ΙΗ’ αί., φύλλα 44ν-54ν).

5. Λόγος περί τοϋ Καιν, καί τοϋ Αβελ τής άναιρέσεως (Χειρόγραφο άριθ. 99 τής Ί. Μ. Παντοκράτορος Αγίου Όρους, ΙΣΤ’ αί., φύλλα 375r-396r).

6. Λόγος εις τον Αβραάμ καί Ισαάκ (Χειρόγραφο άριθ. 163 ΜΠΤ τής Εθνικής Βιβλιοθήκης Αθηνών, ΙΣΤ’ αί., φύλλα 8v-17r).

7. Λόγος ότε οί μάγοι παρεγένοντο εις ‘Ιεροσόλυμα (Χειρόγραφο Μόσχας άριθ. 284 (Vladimir 215), Θ’ αί., φύλλα 101v-103r).

Στήν πορεία τής έκδοσής μας άντιμετωπίσαμε οξύ τό πρόβλημα τής αυθεντικότητας τών μεταφρασμένων στήν ελληνική έργων τοϋ Σύρου Πατρός, πού από τίς αρχές τοϋ αιώνα μας απασχόλησε τούς ειδικούς καί τήν έρευνα. Εμείς κατά τήν έπιλογή τών κειμένων σταθήκαμε μέ σεβασμό στήν παράδοση τών χειρογράφων, καί γι’ αυτό μόνο έλάχιστα κείμενα άφήσαμε έξω άπό τήν παρούσα έκδοση.

Από τά διπλά ώστόσο κείμενα πού συναντήσαμε στους παλαιούς έκδοτες καί στά χειρόγραφα, έπιλέξαμε τά πληρέστερα. Τά διπλά κείμενα τής έκδοσης τοϋ Assemani έπισήμανε μέ άκρίβεια ή Δημοκρατία Hemmerdinger-Ήλιάδου (βλ. Orientalia Christiana Periodica, τόμος XXIV, 1958, τευχ. 3-4, σελ. 371-381).

Κείμενα ελληνικών χειρογράφων πού άφήσαμε έξω άπό τήν έκδοσή μας είναι:

1. Λόγος εις τόν βίον τοϋ οσίου πατρός ημών Ανδρονίκου καί τής συμβίας αύτοΰ Αθανασίας (Χειρόγραφο άριθ. 2541.208 τής Ί. Μ. Ξηροποτάμου Αγίου Όρους, ΙΒ’ αί., σελ. 406 κ.έ.). Αποδίδεται στόν Όσιο Έφραίμ, άλλά ό βιογραφούμενος Άγιος έζησε τόν έκτο αιώνα.

2. Κεφάλαια πάνυ τερπνά (Χειρόγραφο άριθ. 394 τής ‘I. Μ. Μεταμορφώσεως Μετεώρων, ΙΒ’ αί., φύλλα 394-405). Είναι άνθολόγηση άπό Λόγους τοϋ Όσιου Έφραίμ τοϋ Σύρου, τούς οποίους έχουμε περιλάβει στήν έκδοσή μας.

Πληροφορούμε τέλος τούς ένδιαφερόμενους άναγνώστες δτι ετοιμάζεται ή έκδοση Εύρετηρίων τών Έργων τοϋ Όσιου Έφραίμ σέ ξεχωριστό τόμο.

Παραδίδοντας λοιπόν όλοκληρωμένη τήν παρούσα έκδοση τών Έργων τοϋ μεγάλου καί θεοφόρου Πατρός μας Όσιου Έφραίμ τοϋ Σύρου στήν κοινή ωφέλεια καί οικοδομή, παρακαλοΰμε τούς φιλόθεους καί φιλάδελφους άναγνώστες νά εύχονται γιά τούς κοπιάσαντες σ’ αυτό τό πνευματικό έργόχειρο, ώστε νά βροΰμε έλεος ένώπιον τοϋ θρόνου τής μεγαλωσύνης τοϋ μεγάλου Θεοΰ τής έλπίδας μας.

Στόν Σωτήρα μας Κύριο Ίησοΰ Χριστό άνήκει ή δόξα, καί στόν Όσιό του Έφραίμ τόν Σύρο ή τιμή, στούς άπέραντους αιώνες. Αμήν.

Κωνσταντίνος Π Φραντζόλας


With this present volume, the publication of the works of our great and divine Father St Ephraim Syrus is completed so that he and his inspired teaching becomes accessible to all.

The good reason for us to handle the present edition was the offer of Holy Fathers to us, and the weight and the sincere care for its realization were eloquently expressed by the eminent friends, “The Garden of Our Lady” publishers. From this point of view, we feel obliged to express our gratitude to the publications officer for valuable cooperation and participation in all stages of the painful process of this publication.

From the beginning, the problem of the authenticity of the Greek translations of the Syrian Father’s Works was raised. That is why our attention turned to the discovery of old and newer versions, and manuscripts.

At this stage, the Sacred Elders, Father Charalambis, Abbot of I.M. Dionysios, paternally supported us. and P. Grigorios, Abbot of I. M. Docheiarios, as well as the respected and dear Nicodemus, the Monk Agapassilitis, whom we thank graciously.

We also thank the Professor Emeritus of the Theological School of the University of Athens, Mr. George Galitis, and the Assistant Professor at the Philosophical School of the University of Thessaloniki, Mr. Panayiotis Sotiroudis, for the unparalleled interest with which they supported us in our publication.

However, the mention of the elder Efraim, the Abbot of the I. M. Xeropotamos, we feel affectionate for the parental interest he has shown in the realization of our decision.

The original text of this publication was derived from the old editions of Ed. Thwaites (Oxford, 1709) and J.S. Assemani (Rome, 1732-1746), but also from more recent editors. At the same time, we looked at hitherto unknown manuscripts of the Syrian Father’s works. Most useful was the work of M. Geerard (Clavis Patrum Graecorum), where the results  were recorded of research in the field by the secretariat.

Unpublished texts that we drew from manuscripts are as follows:

1. Sermon on the resurrection (anastasis), during the inauguration (of the temple), and on the tomb (of the Lord) (Manuscript No 244 of the National Library of Athens, Nos., Pages 60r-62v).

2. Sermon on the Cross, on the Inaugurations, and on the Holy Wood of the Crucifix (Manuscript No 244 of the National Library of Athens, Nos., Pages 62v-65r).

3. How the robber entered paradise prior to the resurrection (Manuscript No. 115 of St. John’s Doheryour, Mount 157, p. 157).

4. Words of the Holy Martyr Boniface (Manuscript No. 4887,767 of the Holy Monastery of Iviron of Mount Athos, LH., Pages 44v-54v).

5. Sermon on Cain and Abel in Revelation (Manuscript No 99 of the Holy Monastery of Saint Athos, Pasteur, pages 375r-396r).

6. Sermon on Abraham and Isaac (Manuscript No 163 of the National Library of Athens, pp. 8v-17r).

7. Sermon on why the magicians came to Jerusalem (Moscow Manuscript No 284 (Vladimir 215), Ile., folios 101v-103r).

In the course of our publication, we have faced acutely the problem of the authenticity of the works of the Syrian Father translated into Greek, which since the beginning of this century has been the concern of specialists and research. When selecting the texts, we were respectful of the manuscript tradition, and so only a few texts were left out of this publication.

However, from the double texts we encountered in the old editions and the manuscripts, we have chosen the longer. The double texts of the Assemani version have been accurately documented by Hemmerdinger-Iliadou (see Orientalia Christiana Periodica, volume XXIV, 1958, pp. 3-4, pp. 371-381).

Greek manuscripts that we left out of our publication are:

1. A speech in the life of our father Andronikos and his wife, Athanasia (Manuscript No 2541.208 of Ioannis of the Xeropotamos monastery, Mount Athos, pp. 406 et seq.). It is attributed to the Holy Ephraim, but the Saint in question lived in the sixth century.

2. All-pleasing (τερπνά) Chapters (Manuscript No. 394 of I.M. Meteorosis Meteora, L.A., folios 394-405). It is a liturgy from the Words of the Holy Ephraim of Syros, which we have included in our edition.

Finally, we would like to inform our interested readers that the publication of an index of the works of St Ephraim is being prepared in a separate volume.

Delivering therefore the completed present edition of the works of our great and God-bearing Father, the venerable Ephraim of Syros to the common benefit and edification, we ask the God-loving and brethren-loving readers to pray for those who toiled in this spiritual handiwork so that we may find mercy before the throne of the greatness of the great God of our hope.

To our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, and to St Ephraim the Syrian, be glory and honor, throughout the centuries. Amen.

Konstantinos P. Phrantzolas

Now I do not speak even a word of modern Greek, but we do get quite a lot of information from this, even if it degenerates into gibberish at points.  We get the extra texts that Phrantzolas added, although I’m not at all sure about the accuracy of the English titles!  We get the mss that he used (probably more reliable in the Greek).

All useful stuff!

UPDATE: (7 Nov 2018): Many thanks indeed to the correspondent who wrote in and corrected the gibberish bits of Google Translate for us – thank you!


Ephraem Graecus: the Phrantzolas edition (part 4)

I’m still looking at the Phrantzolas edition and (modern Greek) translation of “Ephraim Graecus”, the huge but neglected collection of texts in Greek attributed (mainly wrongly) to Ephraim Syrus in the manuscripts.

I thought that I would OCR the prologue and introduction to volume 1, and run the result through Google translate, to see what it said that might interest us.  Sadly the answer is “not much”.

The prologue is purely flowery compliments.  It tells us nothing about the process of creating the edition.  The introduction contains lots of stuff about Ephraim himself, useful to the modern Greek general reader; but not especially interesting to us.  However at the end, we get the following:

Έπιλογικό σημείωμα

Τό κείμενο τής αρχαίας μετάφρασης στήν Ελληνική γλώσσα των ’Έρ­γων του Όσιου Έφραίμ του Σύρου αντλήσαμε άπό τίς παλαιότυπες Εκδό­σεις (Ed. Thwaites, 1709 καί J. S. Assemani, 1732-1746) επιλέγοντας άπό τίς παραδομένες γραφές εκείνες πού κατά τή γνώμη μας είναι σύμφωνες μέ τή λογική, αισθητική καί συντακτική δομή του κειμένου. Σέ ελάχιστα ση­μεία καταλήξαμε σέ λύσεις γιά την άποκατάσταση τής νοηματικής σαφή­νειας του κειμένου.

Άπό τά γνωστά σημεία γραφής στίς Εκδόσεις κειμένων χρησιμοποιήσαμε τίς αγκύλες [], γιά τόν εξοβελισμό (άπόρριψη) λέξεων του κειμένου, καί τά άντίλαμβδα < > γιά τήν πρόταση λύσεων πρός άποκατάσταση του κειμένου.

Κατά τή μετάφραση στό νεοελληνικό λόγο φροντίσαμε, μέ τίς ταπεινές μας δυνάμεις, νά περισωθεί δ,τι ήταν δυνατόν άπό τό κάλλος καί τήν ήδύτητα του λόγου καί του πνεύματος τού Όσιου Πατρός ήμών Έφραίμ τού Σύρου.

Ευχαριστίες δφείλουμε στόν τότε Διάκονο Έφραίμ Ξηροποταμηνό, πού μέ τίς ευλογίες τού μακαριστού Γέροντός του Έφραίμ Ξηροποταμηνού μας παραχώρησε τό πλούσιο βιβλιογραφικό υλικό πού είχε συλλέξει, ευλαβούμενος τόν *Όσιο.

Ή έκδοση αυτή δφείλει πολλά γιά τήν άρτια παρουσίασή της στή φροντίδα των Εκδόσεων «Τό Περιβόλι τής Παναγίας»·

Which google translate rendered something like this:

Editorial note

The text of the ancient translation into the Greek language of the works of the Holy Ephraim of Syros was drawn from the old editions (Ed. Thwaites, 1709 and J.S. Assemani, 1732-1746) by selecting from the delivered texts those readings which in our opinion, are consistent with the logical, aesthetic and editorial structure of the text. In a few places, we have come up with solutions to restore the conceptual clarity of the text.

In the existing text in the editions, we used brackets [] to remove words from the text, and add suggestions for proposing solutions to restore the text.

In translating into the Modern Greek language, we have, with our humble powers, kept ourselves safe by the beauty and dexterity of the Word and the spirit of the Holy Father, the Ephraim of Syros.

We are grateful to Dean Ephraim Xeropotamenos, who, thanks to the blessings of the Elder of Ephraim Xeropotamenos, gave us the rich bibliographic material he had gathered, redeeming the Holy One.

This publication owes much for its excellent presentation to the care of the publishers, “To periboli tes Panagias”;

Not very certain of the last two sentences!  But interesting to know that the editor did alter the text.

I’ve also been looking at the now-vanished website of the Archimandrite Ephrem Lash, who translated some of Ephraem Graecus, and commented on the Phrantzolas edition.  The site is preserved in the Wayback Machine at, from which we get these words:

The large corpus of Greek texts that go under the name of St Ephrem the Syrian have been greatly neglected by scholars. The only full editions are those published in the 18th century by Thwaites, in Oxford [1709], and by Assemani, largely based on Thwaites, in Rome [1743]. Mercati began a critical edition in 1915, but only one fascicle of the first volume ever appeared. In 1988 a corrected reprint, based on the two eighteenth century editions, together with a translation into Modern Greek, began to be published in Thessaloniki. It was brought to completion late in 1998 with the publication of the seventh, and final, volume.  This final volume contains a number of texts that do appear in either of the 18th century editions. The whole is extremely useful, though it is not a critical, but rather a practical, edition.

Some of these texts seem to be translations of Syriac metrical homilies, but the majority of them are almost certainly original Greek works and most of these the product of Byzantine coenobitic monasticism. They are of different dates and by different authors. A number of them are written in the metre called in Syriac the ‘metre of St Ephrem’, but do not appear to be translations. Some of them seem to have been known to St Romanos the Melodist in the sixth century and one large collection of fifty ‘Exhortations to the Monks of Egypt’ is mentioned by St Photios the Great [c.810-c.895] in his ‘Library’.

The best known of these Greek texts is the prayer of St Ephrem the Syrian, which is prescribed for use in all the Lenten offices of the Church and is one of best loved prayers of Orthodox Christians. The vices there listed are those typical of coenobitic communities, which leads one to suggest that the prayer is unlikely to be by St Ephrem himself, though whether its origin is Greek or Syrian is harder to say. There is one intriguing difference between the Greek and Slavonic texts of the prayer. Where the Greek has ‘idle curiosity’, periergia, the Slavonic has ‘faint-heartedness’, which in Greek is akedia, the classic monastic sin. Does this go back to a different original, or is it a reflection of differing national temperaments?

These Greek writings attributed to St Ephrem have never been translated into English and so I hope on this page to begin to fill a yawning gap in the spiritual reading of English speaking Orthodox Christians. The translations are not ‘scholarly’, since no critical edition of the originals exists, but ‘practical’.

The page then contains his translations:

Sermon in Heptasyllablics
Three Short Discourses
55 Beatitudes
To the Monks of Egypt
On the Departed Fathers
On Abraham and Isaac
On Joseph
On the Transfiguration
On The Passion

Sadly it looks as if he did no more.

The statement that volume 7 contains otherwise unedited texts is interesting.  I must go and look!


Did pseudo-Ephraim believe in the Rapture? Some notes on the manuscripts, the passage and its Greek origins

There is a Latin text from the early Dark Ages which some believe teaches the “Rapture”; the idea that, before the Tribulation described in Revelation, the saints will all be caught up in the air by God and taken away. This claim has become a subject of controversy in the USA, as has the discussion about the Latin text.

I don’t intend to discuss here the Rapture teaching. But I think that it would be interesting to look at this obscure text here, and verify the claim made about it. Will the text bear the weight placed upon it?

Also, since many of the manuscripts are online, we get to look at two critical texts and three manuscripts, and second-guess the editors!  But I do apologise for its length!

I suspect this post might interest people involved in that controversy, so I have tried to avoid jargon and explain my terms, so that any interested reader can follow the discussion. If I have failed at any point, please let me know through the comments.

First, some bibliography. It’s as well to be clear that there is a Syriac “Apocalypse of pseudo-Ephrem” which is NOT the same work; and there are a lot of Greek sermons attributed to Ephraim, all about the end of the world!

Title of the work

In the Clavis Patrum Latinorum, the index of early Christian texts in Latin, this text is CPL 1144, and given the title “Scarpsum de dictis Sancti Efrem prope fine mundi et consummatione saeculi et conturbatione gentium”, i.e. “Extract from the sayings of St Ephraim On the end of the world, the consummation of the age, and the confusion of the nations.” It is generally known for convenience as “De fine mundi”, “On the end of the world”. The title as given in the earliest known copies is given below. However I notice that in some scholarship the work is listed as “De antichristo et de fine mundi”, “On antichrist and the end of the world”.[1]

Author of the work

Ephraim the Syrian lived from 306 to 373 AD. He wrote only in Syriac. He has nothing to do with this work. But his fame was such that works under his name appear in every single language of the ancient world.

A very large collection of works in Greek can be found in the handwritten Greek books of the middle ages, where the title says that the author is Ephraim. Very few of these are in fact translations of his works, or even from works by other people in Syriac. Most of these works are of unknown authorship. These works are known for convenience as “Ephraim Graecus”. They have mostly been printed. Translations into English or French etc are few. Scholars have not worked here, for the most part.

There is also a small collection of works in Latin under the name of Ephraim in the Latin manuscripts. These are known for convenience to scholars as “Ephraim Latinus”. A collection of 6 sermons seems to be a translation of works from Ephraim Graecus. The other Ephraim Latinus texts are known as “Pseudo Ephraim Latinus”. Much of this material has never been printed. Studies by scholars are few.

The author of our work, “De fine mundi”, will be referred to (for convenience – what else?) as pseudo-Ephraim Latinus. We shall see what we can deduce about him later on.


This text has reached us in a small number of handwritten medieval copies, today preserved in libraries in cities across Europe. Each manuscript is unique, and each library assigns each a code or number of some sort (known as a shelfmark). Editors give each manuscript a single letter reference (or siglum) for quick reference by scholars.

  • P = Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale Français, manuscript Latin 13348. Text starts on folio (in manuscript studies each leaf is numbered, rather than each page, and the front side is the “recto” or “r”; the reverse is the “verso” or “v”) 89v and ends on 93v. Followed by a short piece from Greek of Peter the Monk, then a sermon of pseudo-Methodius. The title in the manuscript is “Scarpsum de dictis Sancti Efrem prope fine mundi et consummatione saeculi et conturbatione gentium”. The type of book-hand used tells us that the manuscript was written in the 8th century. A monochrome PDF is online here.
  • A = Paris, Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, ms. 80. Fol. 103r-104v. Then a bit of Jerome on the works of Methodius, the preface of Peter the Monk, and ps.Methodius. Same title as P. 13th century.
  • B = Vatican, Barberini lat. 671. Foll.167-171. Followed by ps.Methodius. Same title as P. No later than 13th century. Online here.
  • G = St Gall, Stiftsbibliothek, ms. 108. Foll.2-10. “Sermo Isidori de fine mundi” – the author of the text is given here as Isidore, not Ephraim. The next text in the ms. is the Revelation of Ps.Methodius. About 800 AD. Online here.
  • K = Karlsruhe, Landesbibliothek, ms. 196. Text starts on folio 24r, ends 29r. “Sermo sancti Effrem de finibus seculi” (Sermon of St Ephraim on the ends of the ages). Next but one text is the Revelation of Ps. Methodius. 9th century.

This list is from Verhelst’s edition.

A Google search suggested that there might be another manuscript at Koblenz as well, but the opening words of the text (the “incipit”) indicate that this is a different unknown work.[2]

By examining copyist errors, Verhelst drew the following diagram of which manuscripts were copies of which:

X stands for the now lost original.


The Latin text has been printed twice, based upon the manuscripts.

  • P. Caspari, Briefe, Abhandlungen und Predigten aus den zwei letzten Jahrhunderten des kirchlichen Altherthums und dem Anfang des Mittelalters, 1896. Online here. Pages 208-20 contain the text (Caspari_text PDF); pages 429-472 contain Caspari’s discussion of it (Caspari_discussion PDF).
  • D. Verhelst, “Scarpsum de dictis sancti Efrem prope fine”, in: R. Lievens (ed), Pascua Mediaevalia : studies voor Prof. Dr. J.M. de Smet, Louvain, 1983, p.518-528. Online here.

Caspari edited the text based upon 4 manuscripts; Verhelst added knowledge of the Karlsruhe manuscript. The two editions differ slightly, as we shall see.


There were no translations into any language, until Grant Jeffery discovered the text, and asked Cameron Rhoades, professor of Latin at Tyndale Seminary in Texas to make a draft translation into English.[3] This translation Jeffrey published in an article:

Electronic transcriptions of the Rhoades translation have circulated on the internet, but these are apparently of doubtful accuracy.[4]

  • B. McGinn, Visions of the End: Apocalyptic Traditions in the Middle Ages, 1979. Chapter 4, pp.60-1, contains a translation of part of the work from Caspari.


Quite a few papers mention this work. Here’s a selection of those not included in the footnotes.

  • Paul J. Alexander, The Byzantine Apocalyptic Tradition, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985, p.136 ff. The discussion that started it all, when Grant Jeffrey read it. Preview here.
  • T.L.Frazier, A Second Look at the Second Coming: Sorting Through the Speculations, p.181. This is the anti-Rapture position with discussion of de fine mundi. Preview here.
  • Gerrit Reinink, “Pseudo-Methodius and the Pseudo-Ephremian ‘Sermo de Fine Mundi’”, In: R.I.A. Nip &c, Media Latinitas: A collection of essays to mark the retirement of L.J.Engels, Steenbrugis, 1996, pp. 317-321. First page visible here. Unfortunately I was unable to access this paper. However I was able to access a discussion of his claim that De fine mundi is derived from the Apocalypse of ps.Methodius, in S. Shoemaker, The Apocalypse of Empire: Imperial Eschatology in Late Antiquity and Early Islam, 2018, p.202-3 n.94 f., which dismisses the claim as unconvincing. Preview here.
  • G. Kortekaas, “The Biblical Quotations in the Pseudo-Ephremian ‘Sermo de fine mundi’”, In: R.I.A. Nip &c, Media Latinitas: A collection of essays to mark the retirement of L.J.Engels, Steenbrugis, 1996, pp. 237-244. First page visible here. Again I was unable to access this.
  • D. Hemmerdinger-Iliadou, ‘Éphrem latin’, in: Dictionnaire de Spiritualité, vol. 4, Paris 1960, col. 815-819.
  • R. Gryson, Répertoire général des auteurs ecclésiastiques latins de l’Antiquité et du Haut Moyen Âge, t. 1, A-H, Herder, 2007. This is said to contain an overview of the scholarship ; again I was unable to access it.

Origins of De fine mundi

Before we look at the specific passage that concerns the Rapture, in chapter 2, we ought to establish something more about the text. This is not an original composition.

C. P. Caspari (p.445) has identified no fewer than 8 works from Ephraem Graecus or Ephraem Latinus where the wording seems very close to that in De fine mundi. These were printed in the 18th century by J.S.Assemani in three volumes.[5] Let me give the page numbers and the conventional Latin titles for each:

  1. Vol. 1, p.294-99 – Beatitudine alia, capita XX. (= CPG 3935.2)
  2. Vol. 2, 222-230 – Sermo in Adventum Domini et de consummatine saeculi et in adventum Antichristi (= CPG 3946)
  3. Vol. 3, p.136-40 – In Adventum Domini, sermones III. (= CPG 4012, sermon 2)
  4. Vol. 3, p.376-80 – Sermo utilis de paenitentia, et judicio, et separatione animae et corporis (= CPG 4044)
  5. Vol. 2, 192-209 – Sermo in secundum adventum d.n.I.C. (= CPG 3944)
  6. Vol. 2, 209-222 – Sermo de communi resurrectione, de paenitentia et de caritate, et in secundum adventum d.n.I.C. (=CPG 3945)
  7. Vol. 3, 152-159 – Sermo paraeneticus de secundo adventu domini, et de paenitentia (=CPG 4016)
  8. Vol. 3, 579-81 – De die judicii (=CPG 4089) (Given in Latin)

There is quite a quantity of works here, connected to the Second Coming of the Lord, and repentance!  Nor is this all; the text is also connected to passages in the Latin Apocalypse of pseudo-Methodius, with which it is transmitted.  The text really looks like something of a hodge-podge, as well it may be.[6]

Only the two works in bold relate to our passage specifically. We will ignore the remainder, except to say that they indicate that the author of this work was clearly very familiar with the Ephraim material in Greek and Latin.

Origins of chapter 2 of De fine mundi

Caspari’s discussion included a list of places where the text was parallel to that in some other work. Here is his entry for our passage.  Click on it to expand.

The Latin of De fine mundi is on the left; the parallels to the right and below.

*   *   *   *

Firstly, we need to recheck what De fine mundi actually says. Caspari prints his text from the Vatican manuscript. But since then we have Verhelst’s edition, and some manuscripts are actually online!

Here’s the text of De fine mundi, as given by Caspari. I have placed the key words in bold.

Omnes enim sancti et electi Dei, ante tribulationem quae uentura est, colliguntur et ad Dominum adsumuntur, ne quando uideant confusionem, quae uniuersum propter peccata nostra obruet mundum.

For all the saints and elect of God, prior to the tribulation that is to come, are gathered and are taken [up] to the Lord, lest they see the confusion, that will overwhelm the whole world because of our sins.

But the text given by Verhelst (p.524, l.36-39) is different:

Omnes enim sancti et electi Dei, ante tribulationem quae uentura est, colliguntur et a Domino adsumentur, ne quando uideant confusionem, quae uniuersum propter peccata nostra obruit mundum.

For all the saints and elect of God, prior to the tribulation that is to come, are gathered and will be taken by the Lord, lest they see the confusion, that will overwhelm the whole world because of our sins.

Verhelst’s apparatus shows that “ad Dominum” is just the reading of B, the Vatican manuscript, and this is online. Let’s look at it!

The text continues at the top of the next folio, 168r:

Looking at the bottom of folio 167v we find “etaddnm” (I can’t mark the overscore on the n in this post), which is abbreviated from “et ad dominum”. Note also the spelling “adsummentur”.

The other manuscripts do not say this. Here’s fol. 4 of manuscript G, the St Gall ms., with the abbreviated “a dnō” = “a domino”:

Here’s the same sentence in ms. P, with the same reading “a domino”.

Verhelst does not indicate where he gets the “adsumentur”, but we can see it in B. However both G and P have “adsumuntur” as Caspari printed it, and this is probably right.

None of this really amounts to much. It doesn’t change the meaning much, to say “taken up to God” or “taken up by God”, does it.

*   *   *   *

The order in which Caspari gives his parallels is somewhat confusing. Let’s do it a bit more systematically.

1.  Latin: De Beatitudine Animae (On the blessing of the soul)

The first parallel is in another Latin text. This is one of the 6 sermons in the Latin collection of Ephraim texts known as Ephraim Latinus; specifically in De beatitudine animae. This has the code CPL 1143.ii. This work is contained in several manuscripts. Caspari transcribes the St Gall manuscripts 92 and 93, which differ on one letter:

Omnes sancti et electi, ante tribulationem quae uentura est, collinguntur et a Domino assumuntur, ut non uideant confusionem illam magnam, quae universum obruit [obruet] mundum.

All the saints and elect, before the tribulation which is to come, are gathered and taken by the Lord, so that they may not see that great confusion, that will overwhelm [overwhelms] the whole world.

This is nearly identical to the passage in De fine mundi.  It’s pretty obvious that our author copied it from here.

Note also that the “a Domino” “by God” wording is present in the St Gall manuscripts 92 and 93 of De beatitudine animae. Here is the text as it appears in ms. 93: [7]

De Beatitudine was printed before 1500, and that version is also online:[8]

This has the same reading.

So there is very little doubt that the author of De fine mundi copied this word for word from De beatitudine animae.

The correct readings in both texts are “a Domino” and “assumuntur” – “are gathered and taken [up] by God, so that they don’t see that great confusion, that overshadows [or “will overshadow”] the whole world”.

*   *   *   *

Now let’s look at the Greek texts. Caspari really presented this data in a confusing way. I hope we can do better! I will skate lightly over the many problems that the “Ephraim Graecus” material presents to us.

  1. Μακαρισμοὶ ἕτεροι, κεφάλαια κʹ / Beatitudines aliae, capita viginti / Other blessings, 20 chapters

This Greek text (CPG 3935, 2) is the Greek original of the Latin text that we just looked at, De beatitudine aliae. It was printed in J. S. Assemani’s 6 volume edition of Ephraem Graecus, in volume 1, on column 297 C.  It’s hard to read, as you will see.  Fortunately the Greek text was retyped in modern times and is now in the TLG.[9]. Here it is:

Οἱ ἐκλεκτοὶ συνάγονται πρὸ θλίψεως τοῦ μὴ ἰδεῖν τὴν σύγχυσιν καὶ τὴν θλῖψιν τὴν μεγάλην ἐρχομένην εἰς τὸν κόσμον τὸν ἄδικον.

Electi ne videant magnam illam confusionem, atque pressuram, quae iniquum hunc mundum obruet, colliguntur.[10]

The elect are gathered together before the tribulation so that they do not see the confusion and the great suffering to come over the whole world.

Click on the image for higher-resolution:

The sense is the same, but the “gathered and taken by the Lord” idea is reduced only to “gathered”. How being “gathered” will prevent the elect from experiencing the tribulation is not stated.

At any event we can see that the translator added the “a domino assumuntur” (“taken [up] by the Lord”). Presumably this was his explanation for that very question.

The Rapture teaching references 1 Thess. 4:17, so let’s see that:

Deinde nos, qui vivimus, qui relinquimur, simul rapiemur cum illis in nubibus obviam Christo in aëra, et sic semper cum Domino erimus. (Vulgate)

After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (NIV)

Had the author used “rapientur” (“will be caught up”) instead of “assumuntur” (will be taken [up]), we would have no doubt that he was thinking of this passage. But he did not.  It would be interesting to know what the Old Latin was for this verse, however.

3.  Λόγος περὶ μετανοίας καὶ κρίσεως, καὶ περὶ χωρισμοῦ ψυχῆς καὶ σώματος / Sermo utilis de paenitentia, et judicio, et separatione animae et corporis / Sermon on penitence, and judgement, and the separation of soul and body.

When we look at the CPG for the previous item, we are informed of links to yet another Greek work. This has the code CPG 4044, and appears in Assemani volume 3, page 376.[11] It was printed from a Vienna manuscript, no 62, folio 225 f, according to Assemani. The page of interest to us is 378 (p.454 of the downloadable PDF of Assemani). There are two sentences on this page, not together, which Caspari quotes above.

The first appears at the top of Caspari, but is toward the bottom of p.378, section E, line 2.

Οἱ ἐκλεκτοὶ συνάγονται πρὸ τῆς θλίψεως, τοῦ μὴ ἰδεῖν τὴν σύγχυσιν καὶ τὴν θλῖψιν τὴν μεγάλην τὴν ἐρχομένην εἰς τὸν ἄδικον κόσμον.

Congregantur electi ante tribulationem, ne confusionem videant…

The elect are gathered before the tribution…

This is pretty much identical to the passage in Beatitudines aliae. In fact the Dictionaire de spiritualite 4, col. 815, section 10, signals “duplicia” with Assemani’s “volume 1, p.294-99” – which in fact is indeed Beatitudines aliae.

The second quote runs along the bottom of Caspari, but is at the top of Assemani 3 p.378, section A line 3f. I’ve highlighted Caspari’s quote.

Ταῦτα μένουσι τὴν ἐρχομένην σύγχυσιν καὶ τὴν θλῖψιν τὴν μεγάλην τὴν μέλλουσαν ἐπέρχεσθαι ἐπὶ πάντα τὰ πέρατα τῆς γῆς. Διὰ τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν <καὶ> διὰ τὴν ἡμῶν χαυνότητα προβαίνουσι τὰ πονηρά. [12]

Haec expectant venturam confusionem, ac tribulationem magnam, quae ventura est super omnes terminus terrae propter peccata nostra….

This is similar material, but this doesn’t include any of the “collected together and taken by God” material.

All the same, we can see quite clearly that the material in Beatitudines aliae is identical, or nearly so, to two passages in this other work in the Ephraem Graecus collection.

It should be added that neither of these Greek texts is a translation of anything in Syriac.

*   *   *   *

Let’s draw the threads together, after all those manuscript pictures and bits of Latin and Greek.  What have we discovered here?

We have discovered that in the Greek “Ephraim” material, there is a mysterious passage about the elect being gathered together before the tribulation, so that they don’t have to see the suffering.

We have discovered that one of these texts was translated into Latin, becoming De beatitudine animae, and that the translator “improved” the Greek by adding a couple of words, so that the elect are gathered and, crucially, taken away by the Lord, so that they don’t see the suffering.

We have discovered that the author of pseudo-Ephraim Latinus, de fine mundi, copied this sentence word-for-word from De beatitudine animae. Presumably he saw nothing unusual in it.

So we have a passage, appearing in two Latin authors, which says that before the Tribulation, the elect are gathered together and taken away by the Lord. We have the same passage, less explicit, in two Greek texts from which the Latin is derived. We can see that the Latin authors understood the text in that manner.

The sentence in De fine mundi is certainly copied from the Latin translation of De Beatitudine animae. The presence of “assumuntur” in the Latin, not found in the Greek, shows the author’s preference for the Latin version. Our only caveat is that we possess no critical edition of De beatitudine animae, so we cannot be sure that this wording is correct.

Other parts of De fine mundi come from a range of other works by Ephraim Graecus, for which we possess no Latin translation. Unless we hypothesise the existence of now-lost Latin translations, we must presume that the author knew Greek.

The Greek text of De beatitudine animae / Beatitudines aliae capita viginti contains the idea in similar wording, but without the “assumuntur” of the Latin. This work consists of 19 short blessings, and then, as chapter 20, a long section of text. It is hard not to look at the imbalance and feel that chapter 20 does not belong with the blessings; particularly when we look at the Sermo utilis de paenitentia and find the same ideas on the same page, although in two separate sentences. Chapter 20 is, perhaps, a summary of material culled from the sermo utilis?

It should be added that neither Greek work was translated from Syriac, as far as we know.[13]

What about the date and place of composition?  Caspari noted the reference to “Persian wars” and the decline of Rome; which places it before the Islamic conquest of Persia in 640 AD.  He noted another reference to two historic “brother emperors” which are either Valens and Valentinian, ca. 378 AD; or perhaps Honorius and Arcadius, ca. 410 AD. We know that De beatitudine animae is found in a manuscript written around 700 AD.  From all this, Bousset dated the work to the 4th century; Caspari to before 628.

Perhaps we might speculate a little ourselves.  As we have seen, the author of De fine mundi was clearly a Latin, as he copied from a form of the text only present in the Latin translation of De beatitudine animae.   So this translation must already have been made. It is known that this translation was made early, not least because a manuscript exists written around 700 AD. However the author was also clearly familiar with ideas from a range of works by Ephraim Graecus, of which no Latin translations are now known to exist. If we reject the hypothesis that a lot more of Ephraim Graecus was translated into Latin in antiquity, and then lost, we must conclude that he was also fluent in Greek, and had ready access to manuscripts. We also know that he refers to the “brother emperors”.

I suggest that the author was a westerner, living in Constantinople, sometime after the reign of Honorius and Arcadius – the brother emperors – and aware of the Roman collapse in the west, and of Persian attacks in the East, and in a place and time where there was intense interest in the subject of the end of the world, as might well have been the case in that period. The mass of western refugees in Constantinople at the second quarter of the 5th century fits this period nicely. On the other hand there was relatively little in the way of Persian wars until 502 AD, other than the brief wars of 421-2 and 440. There are references to the Nestorian debates in the Ephraim Graecus collection, and also to the Theotokos. Perhaps we might speculate from all this that De fine mundi was written by a Latin speaker in Constantinople around 450 AD?

If this is correct, it would follow that the Ephraim Graecus material used by him existed well before this date, and the Ephraim Latinus collection of 6 sermons also.

Did the author believe in the Rapture, much as modern Pre-Millenial Dispensationalists do? The cautious reader will hesitate. For we are sifting the meaning of a single sentence; and it is generally unwise to place too much reliance on a couple of words in a single sentence. There is no link to 1 Thess. 4:17, to being “caught up in the air”; only to being “taken [up]”.  Really there is not.  Does that by itself destroy the claim?  I don’t know.

What we can say that the data is consistent with Dr Jeffrey’s claim that ps.Ephraim Latinus believed in the Rapture; and indeed that the author of the Greek texts did so as well. The author states that the elect will be gathered together before the tribulation and taken away by God so that they do not see the suffering that is to come. What else, in a way, is the teaching of the Rapture than this?  The text of pseudo-Ephraim Latinus’ de fine mundi will bear this interpretation.

But … the statement is too brief for us to be certain.  Two key words cannot compel belief.  If we know of no other evidence that a modern teaching was present to the minds of 5th century believers, then we would probably be very wary of asserting it based on a single ambiguous sentence in an obscure work.  The evidence, in the end, leaves us doubtful.  The similarity may merely be an accident.

Much more research also would be needed for us to be sure that such an interpretation was possible at that period.  For any statement of this kind must be interpreted, not by the beliefs of 19th century America, but by the known beliefs of the period.  We know of no other evidence that this interpretation was in vogue.  Other interpretations are therefore more probable, as a commenter has already pointed out here, if they can be stated in a not-to-contrived manner. The wise man will be cautious.  But such a survey is beyond the scope of this already too lengthy post.

It’s certainly a very interesting text, in a neglected area of patristics.  We could use much more work on Ephraim Graecus and Ephraim Latinus and pseudo-Ephraim.

  1. [1]E.g. W. J. Aerts & G.A.A.Kortekass, “Die Apokalypse des Pseudo-Methodius: Die Altesten Griechischen und Lateinischen Ubersetzungen”, 1998. CSCO 569, subsidia 97. Preview.
  2. [2]See Christina Meckelnborg, Mittelalterliche Handschriften im Landeshauptarchiv Koblenz, p.176, preview here. It’s in Bestand 701, manuscript 128, ff. 51r-57r. 13th century. It too contains Ps.Methodius. But the incipit is “Incipit tractatus sancti Effrem translatus de Greco in Latinum de antichristo et fine mundi. Omnes quotquot estis fideles Christi…” I did not find this incipit in the CPL.
  3. [3]I have been unable to discover anything whatsoever about Cameron Rhoades. Jeffrey tells us (Armageddon: Appointment with destiny, 2009): “Professor Cameron Rhoades, professor of Latin at Tyndale Theological Seminary, translated Ephraem’s Latin text into English at the request of my friend Dr Tommy Ice and myself.”
  4. [4]Bob Gundry, First the Antichrist: Why Christ Won’t Come before the Antichrist Does, 1996, Postscript: Pseudo-Ephraem on Pretrib Preparation for a Posttrib Meeting with the Lord, note 8: “The translation reads correctly in Jeffrey’s version (p.114) but not in that of the Pre-Trib Research Centre (compare note 3 above).”
  5. [5]Assemani also did three volumes in Syriac, confusingly. Here is the title for the Greek volumes. S. Assemani, Sancti Patris nostri Ephraem Syri Opera omnia quae extant graece, syriace, latine, in sex tomos distributa. Rome 1732-46. Online here, and Vol.1 Vol.2; Vol. 3. Assemani made a complete mess of editing these texts; for details see Wilhelm Bousset’s criticism, Der Antichrist in der Überlieferung des Judentums, des neuen Testaments und der alten Kirche, Göttingen, 1895. Translated into English as The Antichrist Legend, 1986, online at here in German and English; and D. Hemmerdinger-Illiadou, “Les doublets de l’édition de l ‘Éphrem grec par Assemani”, OCP 24 (1958), although this I have not seen.
  6. [6]Readers may be interested in the very intelligent comment on an earlier post by Matthias Gassman, here.
  7. [7]The ms. 93 is online here.
  8. [8] Ephrem Syrus, Sermones, ed. Kilianus Fischer (Piscator), Freiburg im Breisgau c. 1491, fol. 12-13v, online here.
  9. [9]beautitudines-aliae-capita-viginti (PDF)
  10. [10]I give A. Traversari’s renaissance translation for ease of comparison.
  11. [11]sermo-de-paenitentia-et-iudicio-et-separatione-animae-et-co (PDF)
  12. [12]Caspari’s quote misses the full stop part way through present in Assemani.
  13. [13]They do not appear in the list of homilies translated from Greek given at the site.

Hunting for the modern Greek translation of Ephraim Graecus

After my post on Ephraim Graecus here, I discovered that a modern edition of the whole collection exists, with a translation of all the works into modern Greek. This is Φραντζοᾶς, Ὁσιοῦ Ἐφραίμ τοῦ Σύρου, Thessaloniki, 1988-98, 7 vols.[1]  There is a website with a list of the contents by volume, and some mysterious-looking linked pages of text for each here.

My initial efforts to locate this, even in printed form, initially drew blank because the editor’s name does not appear on the websites.  You have to search for the Greek title, which is ΟΣΙΟΥ ΕΦΡΑΙΜ ΤΟΥ ΣΥΡΟΥ.  Searching for the editor name is futile.  If you do want to find it, try Phrantsoles (!).

I was luckier last night, and located a bookseller who had the volumes, in stock, and which played nice with Google Translate (just open in Chrome and right-click, and hit “Translate to English”.  It’s here:, Βιβλιοπωλείο Πολιτεία.  I was able to create an account easily enough via the Google Translated form of the website, and no doubt could have ordered.


The seven volumes each cost about 18.40 euros.  Unfortunately postage from Greece is as much again.

I have not been able to locate any copies of these volumes in British libraries.  No doubt some Greek Orthodox people have them.

But the existence of these volumes means that anyone whose first language is modern Greek has an enormous advantage over the rest of us.  It would be a tedious, but relatively straightforward business for such a person to prepare a summary of the contents of every work, in English and post it online.  Such a step would instantly make the works far more accessible.

There are quite a few people in patristics from a Greek Orthodox background.  Would any of them care to undertake the challenge?

There is more.  Google Translate does not handle ancient Greek, for some reason.  But it does handle modern Greek, as we have seen.  I wonder what it would make of some of these texts?

  1. [1]Konstantinos G. Phrantzolas / Κων. Γ. Φραντζόλάς, Ὁσιοῦ Ἐφραίμ τοῦ Σύρου  ἔργα, Thessaloniki: Το περιβόλι της Παναγίας / To Perivoli tis Panagias, 1988-98, 7 vols.  I’ve also seen google results for Phrantzoles (!).  After looking at the edition itself, I can see the name is plainly Phrantzolas.

From my diary

It’s rare that I can mark my birthday, because it is in October.  Once the summer holidays are over, managers recruit contractors in September. So as a rule, I have just started a contract when my birthday comes round.  So, “big birthday” or not, it goes unmarked.

However this year I am still at home, so I went down to St Austell in Cornwall for a few days.

I was fortunate to have exceedingly good weather.  Each day I went down to the little port of Charlestown.  Let me inflict a couple of holiday photographs on you, before I move on to matter of more general interest.

Charlestown at dusk
The setting sun glitters on the masts of the yacht, and on the lighthouse on Gribben Head, as a huge moon fades into view at the top right.

Back I came yesterday, and unfortunately I had to spend a few hours at the end of a 350 mile journey in writing a sample coding exercise for a company that I have applied to.  Such exercises can consume a lot of applicants’ time, but cost the company nothing, so I usually avoid them.  But this role is very close to home, so worth it.  A splitting headache today is reminding me of the price for not resting on Sunday.

I spent some of the time in the hotel searching the web for material related to Ephraem Graecus and Ephraim Latinus.  Some of this was quite productive.  I need to download all of this, and digest it into my notes.

This raises the question of how best to proceed.  In one way it would be best to update my existing post on Ephraim Graecus, as I get more information.  In another this might become very long.  The alternative is to scatter the data across a series of posts as I read it, which is messy for those who come looking for it.  Possibly I should create a page on this blog about Ephraim Graecus, and then blog my progress, updating the page and using the blog posts as announcements, as it were.  I’m not sure.

Ephraim Latinus is still on my mind, and indeed the focus for all this work.  While I was away, the Ice/Demy (eds) volume When the Trumpet Sounds appeared.  Or, rather, I found it lying behind my back gate on the concrete, where the Yodel delivery man had thrown it.  This inaccessible volume contains an article with the publication of the English translation of Ephraem Latinus, De fine mundi.  I shall scan the article and place it here somewhere.

Incidentally isn’t it curious that an poor-quality delivery firm should name itself after a high-pitched ullulating scream?  More or less the same sound, in fact, that its customers make after discovering to their horror that the vendor has chosen to send their goods by Yodel?

I’m finding that early editions of Ephraim Graecus are not online – the Thwaites edition in particular.

A couple of studies are in dissertations which do not seem to be online.  For one of these I wrote to the author, but no answer.  These ought to be obtained.

There is also a 7 volume edition of the Greek text, printed from Assemani, with modern Greek translation.  I have yet to find any sign of this either.

So there is quite a bit to do.  But not today!