The story of St. Ephrem’s life is enigmatic, but even though he is surrounded by mystery, his poetic writings are well attested. They tell us a great deal about Ephrem and his theological positions. Though St. Ephrem never attained prominence in West, his influence in the Eastern Church is substantial to this day. Originally composed in Syriac, the “rhythms” included in The Select Works of St. Ephrem the Syrian explore the birth and death of Christ, as well as apologetic themes and the nature of faith. Theologically rich and creative in expression, this collection of works help us see more clearly into Ephrem’s life while gaining a better grasp of his theology.
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St. Ephrem the Syrian (c. AD 306–373) was a fourth-century theologian and hymnographer, and is a Doctor of the Church in the Catholic Church. Born in Nisibis, near Edessa, he was converted to Christianity by Bishop Jacob of Nisibis and appointed a teacher. He lived in Nisibis until AD 363, then went to Edessa for eight years to teach at the School of Edessa. He died from the plague that ailed the patients he was caring for. Over 400 hymns composed by Ephraim still exist, hymns which he used to teach doctrine and to warn of heresy. His poetry garnered him the titles of “Lyre of the Holy Ghost” and “Prophet of the Syrians.” Ephraim also wrote homilies and prose, of which far fewer manuscripts have survived.