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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XIII:
Selections from the Hymns and Homilies of Ephraim the Syrian and from the Demonstrations of Aphrahat the Persian Sage.: Rectification of the Vatican Text of the Life.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

VI.—Rectification of the Vatican Text of the Life.

If the Life had reached us in its Vatican form only, it would have been necessary to correct one or two farther errors:

1. Date of his Baptism Mistaken.—According to the Vatican Life, Ephraim was baptized at the age of 28, after the surrender of Nisibis by Jovian.  The surrender was in 363, and the age assigned to him would therefore make 334 the earliest admissible date for his birth—ten years after the Council of Nicæa, at which the Life records that he was present!  The Parisian Life corrects this absurdity and shows how the mistake arose.  The statement, in this version of the story, is that after quitting Nisibis, “he retired to Beth-Garbaia, where he had received baptism at the age of 18.”  By omitting the auxiliary “had” (which in Syriac, as in English, expresses the pluperfect) the Vatican scribe or editor introduces this blunder about the date of the baptism.  It is probable that, without having any distinct knowledge of the date of the departure from Nisibis, he felt that Ephraim must have been more than 18 at this stage of the narrative, and strove to make the age cohere better with the time required for the events related, by changing 18 into 28.

2.  Julian substituted for Valens.—The substitution of the name of Julian for that of Valens as the persecutor of Edessa, has been already noticed.  That the story (with the incident of the martyr-mother with her two sons) belongs to the time of Valens, is established by the united testimony of Socrates, Sozomen, and Theodoret.  The whole history is clear, and coherent with itself and with chronology, in the Parisian Life; whereas the Vatican version of it, by bringing Ephraim to Edessa in the reign of Julian, makes hopeless confusion. 296   It is to be noted that the names Julianus and Valens, so distinct as written in Latin, differ but little when transliterated (without vowel-points) into Syriac.



It is to be regretted that neither the Parisian Life, nor the Nisibene Hymns, was before the writer of the article Ephraim in Smith and Wace’s Dictionary of Christian Biography.  The former would have warned him from being misled by the Vatican Life into the error of ascribing to Julian the persecution under Valens; the latter would have shown him that both versions of the Life confuse the first siege of Nisibis with the third.

Next: Chronology of the Life of Ephraim.

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