Ephrem Syrus


The Holy Mar Ephrem (✝ 373), the Harp of the Holy Spirit and Deacon of the church of Nisibis, served for most of his life in Nisibis until he and the other inhabitants were compelled to go west as a result of Emporer Jovian's cession of Nisibis to Persia in 363. St. Ephrem ultimately settled in Edessa where he spent the final decade of his life. Ephrem's influence on successive generations of Syriac Christendom cannot be overstated. For more information on his life and works, see S. P. Brock, St. Ephrem: A Brief Guide to the Main Editions and Translations. 2012.. St. Ephrem's popularity has resulted in several misattributions of works from various authors and time periods. The works below which likely have been misattributed will be indicated with an *. Some of St. Ephrem's genuine works only remain preserved in Armenian translation.1 

Dr. Kristian Heal (BYU) has compiled an index of Scripture quotations from St. Ephrem (along with Aphrahat and the Liber Graduum). We are grateful to him for graciously making this invaluable resource available here: K. Heal, Scripture Citations in the Works of Ephrem the Syrian. 2018.2

Works Cited


For more information regarding modern editions, see S. P. Brock, St. Ephrem: A Brief Guide to the Main Editions and Translations. 2012.. The works found below contain the following information: 1) an English translation of the title, 2) a title from the the edition, 3) if falsely attributed, a note concerning other attributions, 4) a hyperlink to other editions available in the Public Domain, and 4) corresponding modern editions according to S. P. Brock, St. Ephrem: A Brief Guide to the Main Editions and Translations. 2012.

[Go to Obverbeck] [Go to Lamy] [Go to Zingerle & Mösinger]

Assemani, Sancti Patris Nostri Ephraem Syri

(For all of Assemani's entries, the Syriac text contains parallel Latin translation)

Overbeck [Back to Top]

Lamy [Vol. 1Vol. 2Vol. 3Vol. 4[Back to Top]

(For all of Lamy's entries, the Syriac text contains parallel Latin translation)

P. Zingerle & G. Mösinger [Back to Top]


Isaac of Antioch

Isaac of Antioch, priest and spiritual writer, served the church in the latter half of the 5th century. He arrived in Antioch during the time of Peter the Fuller (ca. 471-488) and entered the debate over the Triasagion.1 For further information on his life and works, visit A Comprehensive Bibliography on Syriac Christianity and utilize the key word search to find Isaac of Antioch. The results can be found here.


Isaac's works contain a corpus problem: quite often the works of Isaac of Amid (4-5th cent), Isaac of Antioch (5th cent) and Isaac of Edessa (6th cent) were conflated in the reception history. This was already recognized in letter 14 of Jacob of Edessa to John of Litarba (John the Stylite). The note can be found in Wright's catalogue (here).2 For more information on the problem of the corpus of Isaac, see E. G. Mathews, Jr., A Bibliographical Clavis to the Corpus of Works Attributed to Isaac of Antioch, Hugoye, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 3-14, 2002..

Works Cited

List of Digitized Manuscripts Containing Isaac of Antioch


The most updated list of the works attribued to St. Isaac of Antioch is collected in E. G. Mathews, Jr., The Works Attributed to Isaac of Antioch: A[nother] Preliminary Checklist, Hugoye, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 51-76, 2009.. This list provides 185 Memre and 19 Madrashe of which a good portion remain unedited. The works of Isaac have been edited in the following locations:


*N.B. Unedited homilies not freely available online have not been included below, but can be found in the checklist edited by Mathews, Jr. The list below will includes an entry in the following order: 1) homily title, 2) incipit, and 3) any excerpts or editions.


(Number and Title Follow the Checklist of Mathews, Jr.)


(Number and Title Follow the Checklist of Mathews, Jr.)

*N.B. Unedited homilies not freely available online have not been included below, but can be found in the checklist edited by Mathews, Jr. The list below will include the homily title, incipit and any excerpts or edition


  • 1. Against Those who Receive the Eucharist only after Long Intervals

  • 2. Against Those who Receive the Eucharist only after Long Intervals

  • 3. Against Those who Receive the Eucharist only after Long Intervals

  • 4. Against Those who Receive the Eucharist only after Long Intervals

  • 5. Against Those who Receive the Eucharist only after Long Intervals

  • 7. Against Those who Receive the Eucharist only after Long Intervals

  • 8. Against Those who Receive the Eucharist only after Long Intervals

  • 9. Against Those who Receive the Eucharist only after Long Intervals

  • 10. Against Those who Receive the Eucharist only after Long Intervals

  • 11. Against Those who Receive the Eucharist only after Long Intervals

  • 13. Against Those who Receive the Eucharist only after Long Intervals

  • 14. Against Those who Receive the Eucharist only after Long Intervals

  • 15. Against Those who Receive the Eucharist only after Long Intervals

  • 16. Against Those who Receive the Eucharist only after Long Intervals

  • 17. Against Those who Receive the Eucharist only after Long Intervals

  • 19. Against Those who Receive the Eucharist only after Long Intervals


Jacob of Sarug

Mar Jacob (♱ ca. 521) is known by his followers as the flute of the Holy Spirit (sometimes even the Harp), second only in importance to St. Ephrem himself. From an early age, his prophetic voice and poetic splendor were recognized by ecclesiastical authorities.1 He spent the majority of his life preaching throughout the territory of Batnan, but was ordained Bishop of Sarug in 518. Jacob remains not only an important spiritual writer, but an important source for historians of anti-Chalcedonian theology. Of his approximately 700 works, only roughly half survive, some of which have yet to be edited and many of which have yet to be translated into modern languages. Jacob's works can be found in the sources below. 


List of Digitized Manuscripts Containing Jacob of Sarug


For more  on the life and works of Mar Jacob, see the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship as well as the entry for Jacob of Sarug in A Comprehensive Bibliography on Syriac Christianity.

Table of Contents

Editions of Bedjan

The English titles have been taken from Sebastian Brock, who has published a translation of the titles collected by Bedjan as well as translated several homilies not collected by Bedjan in an edition published by Gorgias Press (here).3 Included for the following volumes are Bedjan's homily number, Brock's title, Bedjan's title, Bedjan's stated manuscript base and a hyperlink to Bedjan's text.

List of Abbreviations:

Other Homilies Attributed to Mar Jacob

A number of homilies have been attributed to Mar Jacob though have not been edited in the above volumes by Bedjan. In the sixth volume of Homilies of Mar Jacob of Sarug, Sebastian Brock has helpfully included material not found in the Bedjan volumes. Included below are the homilies presented by Brock with his translated title. The Syriac links below are taken from prior edited versions or from the digitized manuscripts if no other edition is available.

P. Bedjan and Brock, S. P., Eds., Homiliae selectae Mar-Jacobi Sarugensis, vol. 6, 6 vol. Piscataway: Gorgias Press, 2006. [Back to Top]

Homilies Attributed to Mar Jacob Edited in Other Works [Back to Top]

Letters [Back to Top]4

Most of the Letters in Olinder's work are collected from the British Library and the images are unavailable online, however the catalog records can be searched here.5  The manuscripts collected are found in Olinder, iv-v. The list below represents texts and translations of the letters available online.

Prayers  [Back to Top]

Syriac Spirituality

The Syriac Churches (after the Council of Chalcedon 451)

ORIENTAL ORTHODOX (Miaphysite): Syrian Orthodox.

CHALCEDONIAN (Dyophysite): Maronite; Rum Orthodox (Melkite); Syrian Catholic; Chaldean.

CHURCH OF THE EAST (Dyophysite): Assyrian Church of the East; Ancient Church of the East.

Timeline of Main Authors

4th Century Aphrahat (in Persia) Constantine  
  Ephrem (d. 373) Basil, Gregorys, Athanasius Hilary
  "Book of Steps" Evagrius (d. 399) Ambrose
5th Century John of Apamea/the Solitary John Chrysostom Augustine
    Egyptian Monastic Literature Cassian

431 Council of Ephesus; 451 Council of Chalcedon

3–way split: Syrian Orthodox (miaphysite),

Greek Orthodox, Catholic, etc (Chalcedonian diophysite),

Church of the East (strict dyophysite)

5th/6th Century   Abba Isaiah  
  Jacob of Serugh (d. 521) Sayings of the Desert Fathers  
  Philoxenus (d. 523) Ps. Dionysius the Areopagite Boethius
  Sergius of Resh'aina (d. 536)   Gregory the Great
7th Century  Martyrius/Sahdona John of Sinai  

630s: Arab conquests,

cutting off the Middle East

from the Byzantine Empire

8th Century


Isaac of Nineveh (the Syrian) Maximus the Confessor Bede
Simeon of the Book of Grace    
John of Dalyatha (the Elder) John of Damascus  
Joseph the Seer    

Texts in Translation

Collected texts in translation

Individual Syriac authors:

4th century

Ephrem (d.373)2
Book of Steps

5th century

John of Apamea

5th/6th century

Jacob of Serugh (d.521) 3
Philoxenus (d.523)
Stephen bar Sudhaili 

6th/7th century

Babai the Great, Babai the Small 

7th century

Isaac the Syrian4
Simeon d-Taybutheh

8th century

John the Elder (of Dalyatha)
Joseph the Seer 

Individual Greek authors translated into Syriac

Evagrius (d.399)
Egyptian Fathers 
Macarius, Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, Abba Isaiah, Nilus, Mark the Monk, ‘Dionysius the Areopagite’, John of Sinai (Klimakos).






The role of the heart: prayer as offering on interior altar of heart:

  • Aphrahat, Dem. 4:1, "purity of heart constitutes prayer more than do all the prayers uttered aloud".
  • Matt. 6:6, "Enter the chamber and pray to your Father in secret, with the door closed".
    • Aphrahat, Dem. 4:10, "Our Lord's words thus tell us `Pray in secret in your heart, and shut the door'. What is the door he says we must shut, if not your mouth? For here is the temple in which Christ dwells, just as the Apostle said `You are the temple of the Lord' (1 Cor. 3:16).
  • Ephrem, Hymns on Faith 20:5–7: "Fish are both conceived and born in the sea; if they dive deep, they escape those who would catch them. In luminous silence within the mind let prayer recollect itself, so as not to go astray. Supplication that has been refined is the virgin of "the inner chamber": if she passes the door of the mouth, she is like one who is astray. Truth is her bridal chamber, love her crown, stillness and silence are the trusty eunuchs at her door. She is betrothed to the King's Son: let her not come wantonly out; but let Faith, who is publicly the bride, be escorted in the streets on the back of the voice, carried from the mouth to the bridal chamber of the ear."
    • Cp Ephrem, Nisibene Hymns, 50:1: "While I live I will give praise, and not be as if I had no existence; I will give praise during my lifetime, and not be a dead person amongst the living - for the person who stands idle is doubly dead - just as the earth that fails to produce defrauds him who tills it. In You, Lord, may my mouth give forth praise out of silence. Let not our mouths be barren of praise; let now our lips be destitute of confession. May the praise of You vibrate within us."

The internal liturgy of the heart:

  • Book of Steps (4th cent.), on the three churches, in heaven, on earth, in the heart:
    • "In the case of the church in heaven, all that is good takes its beginning from there, and from there light has shone out upon us in all directions. After its likeness the church on earth came into being, along with its priests and its altar; and according to the pattern of its ministry the body ministers outwardly, while the heart acts as priest inwardly. ... Our bodies become temples, and our hearts become altars." [Discourse 12]

Prayer of the heart as sacrifice:

Sahdona (early 7th cent.)
  • "If the commencement of our prayer is wakeful and attentive, and we wet our cheeks with tears stemming from the stirrings of our hearts, then our prayer will be made perfect, in accordance with God’s wish .... and He will take delight in our offering. As He perceives the pleasing scent (Gen. 8:21) of our heart’s pure fragrance, He will send the fire of His Spirit to consume our sacrifices and raise up our mind along with them in the flames to heaven. Then we shall behold the Lord, to our delight and not to our destruction, as the stillness of His revelation (Gen. 15:12) falls upon us and the hidden things of the knowledge of Him will be portrayed in us, and our hearts will be given spiritual joy..." [Book of Perfection, II.8.20]

The heart as mirror:

(i) Simeon the Graceful (late 7th cent.)
  • "Inside the heart there is a spiritual mirror, glorious and ineffable. It was fashioned by the Creator of all natural beings out of the spiritual potential of all natural beings in Creation, visible and spiritual, as a seat of honour for his Image and as a Shekhina, or dwelling place, of his invisibleness. He made it the bond and link and perfection of all natural beings. It is what the Fathers call `the beauty of our true self'; in it resides the Spirit of adoption which we received from holy baptism; and upon it the light of grace shines out. Whoever has cleansed away from this most beautiful mirror the filthy impurity of the sinful passions, whoever has renewed it and set it up in the condition it formerly had when it was created, - this person will see in the sublime rays that emanate from it all the spiritual potential which belongs to natural beings and objects in the created world, both far off and close at hand: it is as though they were all set out and laid bare before his eyes, and he can examine them thanks to the hidden power of the Holy Spirit who resides and works in it, seeing that the natural beings and objects in the created world are arrayed and fixed there. And when Grace overshadows (cf Luke 1:35) the pure souls of the saints, it alights on this mirror and shines out; indeed, so bright is it as a result of the overshadowing of Grace that it surpasses by ten thousand times the effect of the sun's shining on an ordinary mirror. The soul is struck with wonder at its beauty, and in its impassible light it beholds Grace's new light. The mind in turn becomes aware of mysteries both past and future, and through the mirror's light it beholds the light of the New World: it becomes aware of the inheritance of the saints, and it tastes the delights of the revelations of God's mysteries; it rests in stillness, it forgets its pain and tribulation, it rejoices in its hope and gives praise in hidden silence to God who has granted this: `He who dwells in the protection of the Most High...' (Psalm 91:1); `In your light do we see light' (Psalms 36:9)." [A. Mingana, Early Christian Mystics (Woodbrooke Studies 7, 1934), pp.60–61 (adapted)].
(ii) Isaac, Part II.10.29:
  • "The person whose interior mirror effectively reflects God’s love will thereby also reflect God’s love for all human beings: out of the love of God you will arrive at perfect love of all your fellow human beings."
(iii) John the Elder (‘the spiritual Sheikh’), 8th century:
  • "Blessed is the soul which recognizes itself to be a mirror on which it can fix its eyes and see the radiance of Him who is hidden from all ... How great is your love, O God, seeing that those who have tasted of the immensity of its sweetness have become disgusted by every other delight!" (Letter 7:3).
  • "Cleanse your mirror, and then without any doubt the Light of the Trinity will be manifested to you in it; place the mirror in your heart, and you will realize that your God is indeed alive." [Letter 28.2].
  • Contrast Ephrem and most earlier writers, for whom the ‘eye of the heart’ needs to look with clarity upon the mirror of (e.g.) the Scriptures, as Hymns on Faith, 67:8–9:
    • "The Scriptures are laid out like a mirror
      and the person whose eye is clear sees therein the image of Truth;
      in them is placed the image of the Father,
      depicted there is the image of the Son, and that of the Holy Spirit as well."

The heart as a womb:

Sahdona (early 7th century):
  • "Blessed is that person of love who has caused God, who is love, to dwell in his heart. Blessed are you, O heart so small and confined, yet you have caused Him whom heaven and earth cannot contain to dwell spiritually in your womb, as in a restful abode. Blessed is that illumined eye of the heart which, in its purity, clearly beholds Him before whose sight the Seraphs veil their faces." [Book of Perfection, II.4.8].

Key New Testament Passages

  • Luke 1:35 episkiasei, ‘overshadow’ and John 1:14 eskēnōsen, ‘dwelt’; Syriac ‘tabernacled’ in both passages (aggen; background of verb is Exod. 12 in Palestinian Targum, ~ Hebr. pasah).
  • Beatitudes (NB different emphasis between Matthew and Luke).
  • Matt. 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
  • Luke 6:20 Blessed are the poor, for yours is the Kingdom of heaven.
  • Mark 10:21 (Syriac), etc "If you would be perfect, go sell what you possess, and take up your cross and follow me.
  • John 15:19 You do not belong to the world.
  • Rom. 13:14 Put on our Lord Jesus Christ.

Gospel of Thomas (2nd century): MONAXOC = Ihidaya

  • Logion 16 "There shall be five in a house, three shall be against two, and two against three, the father against the son, and the son against the father, and they will stand as solitaries (MONAXOC)."
  • Logion 49 "Blessed is the solitary (MONAXOS) and elect, for you shall find the Kingdom."
  • Logion 75 "Many are standing at the door, but the solitaries (MONAXOS) are the ones who will enter the bridal chamber."


Ascetic life within the Christian community

  • The bnay qyama; ascetic life in isolation - the abile/ "mourners" (based on Matt. 5:4), "who love the wilderness" - the "Holy Men" of Theodoret (and Peter Brown).

The tripartite pattern: John the Solitary (of Apamea) 

  • Three modes of Christian lifestyle (for terminology, cp I Thess. 5:23):

    • of the body: stripping away of possessions. External "self-emptying" (msarrqutha, based on Phil. 2:7, "he emptied himself"). Applies to "outer person".
    • of the soul: stripping away of bad thoughts, passions, etc. Internal "self-emptying". Applies to "inner person".
    • of the spirit: (momentary) interior anticipation in this world of "the New World", "New Life" (Peshitta Rom.6:4), "post-Resurrection life".

Compare other tripartite schemata:

  • Clement of Alexandria
    • slave - faithful servant - child of God.
  • Evagrius
    • praktike - natural contemplation - theologia.
  • Dionysius the Areopagite
    • purification - illumination - perfection.

Isaac of Nineveh on Gehenna

  • (end of II.39.2) "Knowing them and all their conduct, the flow of His grace did not dry up from them: not even after they started living amid many evil deeds did He withhold His care for them, even for a moment. If someone says that He has put up with them here on earth in order that His patience may be known ‑ with the idea that He would punish them there mercilessly, such a person thinks in an unspeakably blasphemous way about God, due to his infantile way of thinking: he is removing from God His kindness, goodness and compassion, all the things because of which He truly bears with sinners and wicked men. Such a person is attributing to God enslavement to passion, supposing that He has not consented to their being chastised here, seeing that He has prepared them for a much greater misfortune, in exchange for a short‑lived patience. Not only does such a person fail to attribute something praiseworthy to God, but he also calumniates Him."


The Syriac proto-monastic tradition (4th cent.)

The baptismal context:


  • Hymns on Epiphany 
    • 4:1, Go down (into the baptismal font) and put on our Lord.
    • 8:17, The person who is baptized puts on (Christ) the Ihidaya.


  • (1) Syriac term translates Greek Monogenes (John 1:18). (2) > Ascetic follower of Christ: Aphrahat, Demonstration 6:6 "The Ihidaya from the bosom of His Father (Jn 1:18) gives joy to all theIhidaye"; 6:4 "my beloved Ihidaye, who do not marry...".
  • Development: "unique, individual" > "follower of Christ the Ihidaya/Only-Begotten", + "single/celibate" + "single-minded"; (only later > "solitary, hermit").

Antecedents of the term ‘monk’ (Greek MONAXOC)

  • (1) non-Christian: "unique of its kind, individual"; "solitary, isolated from others of its kind"; "simple, unified" (as opposed to "multiple, divided").
  • (2) Eusebius, Commentary on Psalm 67(68):7, "God causes the yahid (unmarried, single) to dwell in a house" (LXX Monotropous; Aquila, Monogeneis; Symmachus, Theodotion, Monachous; Syriac Peshitta, Ihidaya). Eusebius (c.330/40) "this refers to the order of those who advance in Christ, the monks". (First known occurrence of monachos = "monk" is in a papyrus petition dated June 324).

The baptismal "covenant, agreement" (Syriac: qyama):

All Christians

  • Cp. Theodore of Mopsuestia, Catechetical Hom. 13:13 (at baptism; acknowledgement of Christ) "I establish a covenant (qyama) and believe...”)
  • Cp sunthekai in John Chrysostom.

Those taking ascetic vows at baptism

  • Aphrahat, Demonstration 6, addressed to Bnay Qyama (lit. children of the covenant) = IhidayeBook of Steps 19:2 "If you have believed the words of Jesus and have established a covenant (qyama) with him that you will listen to his words and keep his commandments...". 
  • Book of Steps: "Lesser commandments" for the "Upright", but "Greater commandments" for the "Mature/perfect".

Ascetic models:

Christ as Bridgroom; betrothal to Christ

  • Ephrem, Hymns on Faith 14:5 "The soul is Your bride, the body Your bridal chamber".
  • Martyrdom of Martha, a "daughter of the covenant" and "the betrothed to Christ" (S. P. Brock and Harvey, S. A., Holy Women of the Syrian Orient, vol. 13. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987., p. 70).

Parable of the Virgins (Matt. 25:10 "wedding feast" > "bridal chamber")

Baptism as potential return to Paradise (anticipation of eschatological Paradise)

  • Imagery of the Robe of Glory (lost at Fall, deposited by Christ in Jordan, put on in potential at Christian baptism, in reality at the Eschaton).

The angelic life

  • Syriac ‘ira = Watcher/Angel (Daniel: ‘irin and qaddishin, "Watchers and Holy Ones"); ‘irutha = wakefulness.
  • Matt. 26:41 "be wakeful and pray". Aphrahat, Dem. 23:52 "Let us be wakeful each day to utter praise..".
  • Luke 20:35 "those who have become worthy of that world and that resurrection from the death do not marry..., for they have become equal with the angels, as children of God". Ephrem, Hymns on Nativity 21:4 "The Wakeful One (Christ) came to make us wakeful here on earth".

Specialized sense of qaddishaqaddishutha "holy, holiness" > "marital continence"

  • Based on Exodus 19:10, 15. Aphrahat, Demonstration 6:8 "I am writing what befits the Ihidaye, the "children of the covenant", the virgins (m & f), and qaddishe"; Dem.7:20 "the whole qyama of God.. who have chosen for themselves virginity and qaddishutha".

Syriac Exegetical Tradition


Old Testament

New Testament


Old Testament:
New Testament:

Translations from Greek


On Early Writers


On Later Writers

Old Testament

New Testament

Syriac Baptismal Tradition




ANONYMOUS (early 5th cent.?)

THEODORE of Mopsuestia (d. 428)

NARSAI (5th cent.)

GEORGE of the ARABS (d.724)

MOSES bar KEPHA (d.903)



St. Ephrem: A Brief Guide to the Main Editions and Translations

Earlier versions of this Brief Guide was published in S. P. Brock, A Brief Guide to the Main Editions and Translations of the Works of St. Ephrem, The Harp, vol. 3, no. 1-2, pp. 7-29, 1990., Saint Ephrem : un poete pour notre temps : Patrimoine syriaque, Actes du colloque XI, Aleppo 2006, Patrimoine syriaque, Actes du colloque, vol. 11. Markaz ad-Dirāsāt wa-'l-Abḥāt̲ al-Mašriqīya, Antelias, pp. 280–338, 2007., and (in Russian) in Patriarch of Moscow Alexei, Pravoslavnaja enciklopedija. Moscow: Pravoslavnaja ėnciklopedija, 2009., 79–94. The Antelias volume also includes indexes of first lines of both madrashe and memre, and of the qale.

Although St Ephrem (c. 306–373) undoubtedly ranks as the greatest of all Syriac creative writers, his extensive works have only become available in reliable editions within the last thirty or so years, thanks above all to the labours of Dom Edmund Beck, OSB. Beck accompanied his editions in the great Louvain Corpus of Oriental Christian Writers (CSCO) with a German translation,1 but for the English, French, and Italian readers there is unfortunately no complete translation of Ephrem's works available. The aim of this summary guide is two-fold: firstly, in Section I, to list the contents of the main editions, indicating where the older editions have now been replaced by better ones in the CSCO (or elsewhere); and then in Section II, to provide information concerning translations into English, French, and Italian, where available. At the end of this section a table summarizes the main editions and translations that are available, and brief indications are provided concerning the early manuscript tradition, and the chronology of Ephrem’s works. The following Section III offers a brief guide to the ancient translations, while Sections IV–V consist of indices to the first lines of the memre and of the madrashe, and to the qale (melody titles) to which the madrashe were originally sung. It should be noted that this guide is not directly concerned with questions of authenticity, though an indication is given in cases where the attribution to Ephrem is definitely incorrect; this applies especially with some of the memre.

In Section I, if a text in one of the older editions has subsequently been reedited in CSCO or elsewhere, then reference to modern translations (if they exist) will be found under the re-edition, listed in Section II (cross references to re-edited texts are always given). In Section II references to other older editions, beyond those listed in Section I, are normally excluded. Secondary literature, in the form of studies of particular texts, is not included; for this, see above all the excellent bibliography: K. den Biesen, Bibliography of St Ephrem the Syrian. Giove in Umbria [Italy]: [Publisher not identified], 2002.. Also see the periodic bibliographies of Syriac studies in Parole de l’orient. 1970..2 Den Biesen’s Bibliography is organised as follows:

  • Classification of the Titles; this includes, as sections 17–173, a list of Ephrem’s works in Syriac (not all of which are genuine); since these entries conveniently list all editions, translations and studies, the appropriate section number (introduced by #) is given for each item in I–II below (if a work listed in I is re-edited in II, den Biesen’s number is only given under the latter).
  • Editions.
  • Titles exclusively dealing with Ephrem.
  • Titles partly dealing with Ephrem.
  • Titles incidentally dealing with Ephrem.
  • Appendices: these list the contents of the main pre-20th century editions of Ephrem’s works, in Syriac, Greek, and Armenian. The page numbers of these Appendices for the Roman edition, Overbeck, and Lamy are given for convenience below, in I.

Another useful survey of the different editions of Ephrem's works and their manuscript basis is provided by J. Melki in J. Melki, Saint Éphrem le Syrien, un bilan de l'edition critique, Parole de l'Orient, vol. 11, pp. 3-88, 1983.

It should be noted that this Guide includes only a summary of the ancient translations of Ephrem (in Section III), and is for the most part confined to modern translations in English, French, German, and Italian.3




Roman Edition (1732–1746). [den Biesen, 361–365]

This monumental work, entitled Sancti Patris Nostri Ephraem Syri Opera Omnia quae exstant GraeceSyriaceLatine, is in six volumes, but only the last three contain the Syriac texts (with Latin translation, often very free and unreliable), edited by P. Mobarak (Benedictus) and S.E. Assemani.4 A very useful index to this edition, indicating the manuscript sources (where these could be identified) was provided by F.C. Burkitt, in F. C. Burkitt, S. Ephraim's Quotations from the Gospel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1901., pp. 6–19.

The Syriac texts contained in volumes 4–6 are as follows:

Those not re-edited in CSCO correspond to den Biesen ##116–120; of these #117 is the well-known Maronite and East Syriac hymn Nuhro; #119 (aloho habyulfono) has been republished in Mor Julius Yeshu Cicek, Kapo d-habobe. Holland: Monastery of St Ephrem, 1977., 6–11, and it also features in the East Syriac Hudra (P. Bedjan, Breviarium iuxta ritum Syrorum Orientalium id east Chaldaeorum, 3 vol. Paris: Via Dicta de Sèvres 95, 1867. 1.498–501; T. Darmo, Ed., Ktābā da-qdām wad-bātar wad-ḥudrā wad-kaškōl wad-gazzā w-qālē d-‘udrānē ‘am ktābā d-mazmōrē. Trichur: Mar Narsai Press, 1960. 1.769–772).6 There is an improved edition of #120 in P. Zingerle, Chrestomathia Syriaca. Rome: Society of the Propagation of the Faith, 1871., pp. 254–275.

For translations of texts re-edited in CSCO see below; English translations of other Paraenetica:

  • no. 2 = Malan (b),9 13–50.
  • no. 14 = Malan (a),10 209–214.
  • no. 26 = Malan (a), 202–208.
  • no. 30 = Burgess (a),11 no. XXVII.
  • no. 32 = Burgess (a), no. XXIII.
  • no. 41 = Burgess (a), no. XXVIII.
  • no. 45 = Burgess (b), 180–192.
  • no. 49 = Burgess (b),12 192–200.
  • no. 54 = Burgess (a), no. XXXIV.
  • no. 55 = Burgess (a), no. XXX.
  • no. 58 = Burgess (a), no. XXXI.
  • no. 59 = Burgess (a), no. XXXII.
  • no. 64 = Burgess (a), no. XXIV.
  • no. 65 = Burgess (a), no. XXV.
  • no. 66 = Burgess (a), no. XXXIII.
  • no. 67 = Malan (a), xv-xvi.
  • no. 70 = Malan (a), 232–234.

Nos 39, 51–52, 62–63, 66–67 and 69–70 are found in both the Maronite Shehimto (Weekday Office), as soghyotho, and in the East Syriac Hudra as teshbhatha; English translation of these in S. P. Brock, Some Early Witnesses to the East Syriac Liturgical tradition, Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 9-45, 2004.. See esp. 19–45.13


Overbeck (1865) [den Biesen, 375–376]

J. J. Overbeck, Ed., Ephraemi Syri, Rabulae episcopli Edesseni, Balaei aliorumque Opera selecta: E codicibus syriacis manuscriptis in museo Britannico et bibliotheca Bodleiana asservatis primus editit. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1865.. Contains the following works ascribed to Ephrem (Overbeck provided no translations):


Lamy (1882–1902) [den Biesen, 377–380]

T.J. Lamy's Sancti Ephraem Syri Hymni et Sermones (Malines 1882–1902) consists of four volumes;17 Latin translations are provided throughout. These volumes contain:



The Syrian Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Ephrem Rahmani published, at Charfet (Lebanon), a volume of texts by Ephrem, without any title page or date, as Volume 2 of a larger collection of texts entitled Luqote da-mkanshin men soyume `atiqe (de Biesen, Title 139). This contains the following texts (since the volume is very rare, I give the incipits of texts not published elsewhere):

  • 1–19Mimre on Praise at Table
  • 20–28: Fragments of mimre on Nicomedia 
  • 29–32: On Purity of Heart and Contrition [#86] 
    • Incipit: ܒܪܝ ܒܝ ܡܪܝ ܠܒܐ ܕܟܝܐ
  • 33–34: On how God is not the author of misfortunes, or of sickness of body and soul [#67]
    • Incipit: ܠܘ ܢܦܫܐ ܐܝܬܝܗ̇ ܥܠܬܐ
  • 34: Excerpt corresponding to Beck, Sermones 1.1,23 beginning line 153: ܠܐ ܚܕ ܝܘܡ ܢܛܥܢ ܝܘܩܪܐ
  • 35: Incipit: ܐܢ ܩ̇ܪܐ ܐܢܫ ܒܟܬܒ̈ܐ
  • 36–37: On God’s care [#68]
    • Incipit: ܕܫܒܩ ܪܢܝܐ ܕܐܠܗܐ
  • 38–47: On the vigil which makes the soul shine [#114] 
    • Incipit: ܒܦܚ̈ܐ ܢܫܪ̈ܐ ܡܬܬܨܝܕܝܢ
  • 48–52: On a person living in stillness and self-emptying [#69].
  • 52–55: On Repentance.
    • Also in Lamy 4.453–63.
  • 56–59: On Oppression.
    • Also in Lamy 4.217–26.
  • 59–65: On Humility and Fasting [#71]
    • Also attributed to Isaac of Antioch24
    • Incipit:  ܒܐܘܪܚܐ ܕܡܠܟܐ ܫܡܝܢܐ
  • 66–80: On Solitaries; re-edited by Beck in CSCO 334–335 (Sermones 4.1).
  • 81–90: On Solitaries; re-edited by Beck in CSCO 334–335 (Sermones 4.2).
  • 91–92: On Supplication
    • Incipit: ܫܘܒܚܐ ܠܟ ܡܪܐ ܕܪ̈ܚܡܐ
  • 92–109: On Job, 1 [#73]
  • 109–115: On Job, 2 [#74] 
    • Incipit: ܬܘ ܐܚ̈ܝ ܢܬܒܩܐ ܒܗ
  • 115: Satan’s battle [#115]
    • Incipit: ܚܘܣ ܡܪܢ ܥܠ ܐܢܫܘܬܢ
  • 116–120: Admonition to Solitaries 
    • Also in Lamy 4.207–216.
  • 121–129: On Reproof
    • Also in Lamy 4.185–208.
  • 129–130: Against Bardaisan 
    • Part of mimro published in Overbeck, 132–136; incipit: ܡܘܬܐ ܕܓܙܪ ܐܠܗܐ = Overbeck, 132, lines 12–13.
  • 131–132: On fourth siege of Nisibis [#102] 
    • Incipit: ܩܢܝܢ ܐܢܘܢ ܨܒܝܢ̈ܝܟܘܢ
  • 132–133: On Reproof [#96] 
    • Incipit: ܠܢܟ̈ܦܐ ܕܝܢ ܘܠܢܟ̈ܦܬܐ
  • 133–134: On Morning Praise [#56]
    • Incipit: ܒܪܝܟ ܕܒܨܦܪܐ ܨܪ ܐܢܘܢ
  • 134: From mimro 13 on the three sieges [#103] 
    • Incipit: ܐܢ ܕܝܢ ܐܢܫ ܢܐܡܪ ܕܐܝܘܒ



In contrast to the previous section, where the contents of the three main older editions, and of Rahmani’s volume, were listed, in the present section works under Ephrem's name25 published in more recent editions are arranged by genre (prose works, artistic prose, verse homilies or mimre, hymns or madroshe). Translations, where available, are noted; references to secondary literature can readily be found by consulting den Biesen’s Bibliography (the relevant entries in this are again indicated by number introduced by #). At the end a summary list of works attributed to Ephrem and published in the last half century is given in tabular form, for purposes of quick reference; this indicates where complete translations are available.


Prose Works 











Artistic Prose






Verse Homilies (memre)





  • Memre edited by Beck in CSCO (Sermones 1–4).

    • By no means all of the twenty one texts edited, with German translation, by Beck in these four volumes are genuinely by Ephrem. For convenience of reference, the complete contents of each of the four volumes are listed in order, indicating which texts Beck considers to be genuine.




  • Sermones 3 (CSCO 320–321, Scriptores Syri 138–13933).

    • None of the five memre published, with German translation, in this volume are thought likely to be genuine, and the fifth must date from the seventh century. All five are re-editions, as follows:
      • No. 1 = Roman Edition 6.629–638 (no. 13). On the Fear of God and on the End [#108].
      • No. 2 = Lamy 2.393–426. On Magicians etc, and on the End [#77].
      • No. 3 = Roman Edition 6.242–227 (Necrosima, no. 12) [#62].34
      • No. 4 = Lamy 3.133–188. On the (Second) Coming of Christ [#53].
      • No. 5 = Lamy 3.187–212. On the End, Judgement, Retribution, on Gog and Magog and on the False Christ [#65].35




  • Memre on Holy Week, edited by Beck, Ephraem Syrus: Sermones in Hebdomadam Sanctam (CSCO 412–413, Scriptores Syri 181–18238).

    • The attribution to Ephrem of these eight memre [#70] is not likely to be correct. In the (late) manuscripts they are allocated to liturgical hours; 8 is in fact for the Sunday after Easter, not the Resurrection itself. All are re-editions, with German translation, of texts already published by Lamy, as follows:
      • 1. Monday (Ramsho) of Holy Week: Lamy, 1.339–358. Catalan translation in M. Nin, Efrem de Nísibis. Himnes i homilies. Barcelona: Edicions Proa, 1997..
      • 2. Tuesday (Lilyo) of Holy Week: Lamy, 1.359–390.
      • 3. Wednesday (Lilyo) of Holy Week: Lamy, 1.390–410.
      • 4. Thursday (Lilyo) of Holy Week: Lamy, 1.410–430.
      • 5. Friday (Lilyo) of Holy Week: Lamy, 1.430–450.
      • 6. Friday (Sapro) of the Crucifixion: Lamy, 1.450–524.
      • 7. Saturday (Lilyo) of Holy Week: Lamy, 1.524–552.
      • 8. New Sunday (Lilyo): Lamy, 1.552–566.





Other memre Attributed to Ephrem Published in Recent Years

Since the seven-syllable metre is known as the metre of St Ephrem, a large number of memre which are certainly not by Ephrem are erroneously attributed to him in the manuscript tradition. This also applies to the following memre which have been published within the last few decades; none are likely to be genuine.







Hymns (madrashe).

It is upon the hymns, of which some 400 survive, that Ephrem's reputation as a major poet depends. All the genuine hymn cycles (and a few which are not) have been edited by Beck in CSCO.40 These are listed here alphabetically, by English title.



Translations of individual hymns:



Translations of individual hymns:


Madroshe on Epiphany (Hymni de Epiphania) [#22]. ܕܒܝܬ ܕܢܚܐ