The Eucharist also provides Ephrem with a similar evidence on the worth of the body. Theosis: the Purpose of Revelation Incarnation The concept of theosis or divinization is often associated with the Greek tradition especially with the names of Dionysius the Areopagite and Maximus the Confessor. However, it may be a surprise that the basic concepts of this doctrine is already found in the early Syriac theological and spiritual tradition, especially in St. The whole aim of revelation given through three channels: types and symbols in Nature and Scripture; divine names in the Scripture and the fullness of revelation in incarnation, is nothing other than the restoration of humanity to the paradisiacal state, a state that in fact will be even more glonous than that of Adam and Eve before the fall.
The Syriac Fathers understand revelation, which is God's self-abasement, as an invitation addressed to the free will of man. Man can either accept or reject the call of God given in Nature, Scripture and in Christ. The purpose of the types and symbols available in Nature and in Scripture is to allure man from his fallen state to the glorious divine reality.
However, Ephrem affirms that humanity is divinized through grace and not by nature. Ascetical Dimension of Syriac Theology The beginning of monasticism is often associated with Egyptian style of monasticism. In the history of monasticism it was very often forgotten and neglected. The ascetical thrust is one of the main characteristics of early Syriac theology, especially on the ways of Christian living, focused on the whole hearted discipleship of Jesus.
The life style of this community could be presented by the term Ihidaya which refers to three basic concepts: singular, individual, unique; single-minded, not divided in heart; and single in the sense of unmarried, celibate. The Christian faith is perceived as a new covenant, and this is the decisive factor determining all others in the understanding of the new religion, even to the shaping of its implications. The covenant Christian marriage is the sacred sign of the union of Christ and the Church Eph 5. However, in the understanding of the Syriac Church, the consecrated virgins, both men and women, are in immediate contact with the holy reality of which marriage is the sign.
An ascetic by becoming single-minded accepts circumcision of heart Josh 5. Their covenantal relationship with Christ was for attaining the original state of the humanity of Adam and Eve before the fall. Eschatological Dimension Eschatology defines the very structure of Christian life and is fundamental to any Christian theology. It is the distinctive particularity of Christian faith and definitely not the last chapter in theology.
The eschatology of the early Syriac Fathers cannot be reduced to a mere belief in last events or to a map of future events such as death, judgment, heaven, hell, or to a belief in the ultimate victory of God in Christ. But it is, at the same time, the realization of the fact that as Christians we already possess that in which we believe. That is, their eschatology is to be understood more in terms of a realizing or realized eschatology. It is in this scheme that the relevance of baptism and Eucharist for the life of the Christian community and for the individual Christian is to be understood.
In this journey baptism and the Eucharist become the pledge of salvation and the foretaste of the happiness to come. Symbolic Theology One of the most attractive features of early Syriac theology is its symbolic character. The early Syriac Fathers, especially Ephrem 82 uses a number of imageries and symbols to expound the truths of our salvation. For instance, he understands divinitv as fire, the metaphor of clothing to understand the mystery of incarnation, 84 the images of eye 8 ' and mirror 86 and imageries from agriculture, from archery, from sailing etc.
They do not jump directly into the heart of the matter through linear logical sequence rather their approach to reality is more circlic, circling round the matter through symbols and types, gradually advancing and going deeper. But from the objective divine point of view the reverse is true: some aspect of divine reality lies hidden in the type or symbol.
Symbolic theology is in fact a going back to the Christian sources as symbolism and symbolic expressions were dear to the Jewish Christians and the Jews alike. The Syriac Fathers provide us with a refreshing counterbalance to an excessively cerebral tradition of conducting theological enquiry. It is true that to account for the richness and power of the symbolism in early Syriac literature and liturgy one must clearly ascribe much to the biblical inheritance shared with Judaism.
Theology in Poetry Theology in poem and theologian as poet may sound contradictions for the modem mind. In Ephrem poetry proves to be an excellent medium for creative theological thinking. He does not present profound theological insights in philosophical categories rather present them by means of images that are drawn from the Bible and ordinary human life.
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This lends his poetry a timeless character. It is our experience Early Syriac Theology: Some Basic Features 45 that language of poetry can express the spiritual reality more successfully. Even though the demonstrations of Aphrahat are in prose, it has often poetic charactenstics. He excels in following Semitic rhetorical tradition, i. Scholars point out that early Syriac literature, especially the Acts oj Judas Thomas , is rich in poetic titles of Jesus which often suggest a litany or responsorial form.
Eco-Theology and Mysticism of Nature The ecological vision and nature mysticism of the early Syriac Fathers, especially that of Ephrem, would astonish us as eco-theology is gaining more grounds today. The natural world stands side by side with Scripture as a witness to God. Therefore, the Syriac Fathers have a sacramental vision of the world, as they are aware of the fact that the natural world can provide innumerable symbols that the inner eye of faith can use as vehicles for understanding divine realities. Their approach to the nature is one of wonder and reverence and not that of greed and exploitation.
Ephrem clearly states that human sin, misuse of free will, can disturb the cosmic harmony and order. Theology as the Language of Doxology The theological approach used by Ephrem is not one of intellectual scrutiny but an approach of engagement, an engagement of love and wonder. If the scientific intellectual approach of the mind to its object is a one-way affair, the approach of engagement is a two-way affair involving mutual interaction and participation. Only in this approach of mutual love can theology and knowledge of God grow. An essential concomitant of this attitude of engagement and participation is a sense of wonder tehra nticnh , a key word in the hymns of Ephrem.
In Ephrem, we are able to decipher a deep spiritual approach to the created world as a means of divine revelation and the sense of wonder and awe enkindles in him the praise of God, doxology. It is clear that for Ephrem theology is nothing other than God expenence and it evokes in him sentiments of praise and adoration. Conclusion Early Syriac Christianity can genuinely claim to be an indigenous Asian representative of Christianity. As the sole representative of a Semitic Christianity which was for the most part still uneuropiamzed, early Syriac Christianity takes on a new relevance in the modern world where the Churches of Asia, Africa, and South America are rightly seeking to shake off the European cultural baggage.
The early Syriac theological tradition, as a true representative of the Semitic and biblical milieu out of which Christianity is bom, can take us to the very origins of Christian theology itself. While development of theology in other traditions owes much to heresies, controversies and to particular systems of thought, Syriac theology remains faithful to the biblical tradition.
As such Early Syriac theologians were not controversialists. They do not use, if at all they confront heresies and heretics, the speculative weapons of their adversaries. The biblical thought forms and categones extensively used by the early Syriac theologians, far from being advocates of a particular philosophical school, in explaining the faith of the Church are to be regarded common treasure of all theological traditions and thus have a perennial value. Early Syriac Theology: Some Basic Features 47 In early Syriac theology one does not find systematic or scientific treatise on any single subject.
Early Syriac theology, therefore, can act as a corrective of a pure cerebral approach to theology, divorced from the faith experience of the Church, which is not worth its name. This is what K. This forgotten theological tradition with its sense of the sacred and mystery, with its deep mystical and ascetical spint also can be an effective remedy against the erosion of spiritual and moral values. Notes J. Danielou and H. Payngott ed. Homage to Mar Cariattil, Kottayam , Eaton ed. Brock, Luminous Eye , 2; see also, S.
Brock, Luminous Eye , Murray, Symbols , Danielou, Theology of Jewish Christianity ;, Vol. It refers to the expression of Christianity in the thought-forms of later Judaism. Danielou, Theology of Jewish Christianity ;, 4. Garsoi'an, T. Mathews eds. Baumstark, Die Messe im Morgenland, Miinchen , It refers to one of the two classes into which the traditions of Jewish piety were divided in the Rabbinic period, denoting a particular literary style including legends, anecdotes, symbolism etc.
Danielou, Theology of Jewish Christianity , see glossary; see also, S. Brock, Luminous Eye , 8. Martimort ed. Wace eds. See also, P. Kaniarakath eds. Placid J. Podipara c. Brock, Luminous Eye, ; see also, T. Ephrem, Hymns on the Church, Brock, Luminous Eye, Ephrem, London , 5. Murray, Symbols, Vagaggini, Theological Dimensions of Liturgy , L. Doyle, trans. Neunheuser ed. See the excellent study of S.
Vellian ed. Fischer ed. It may be a surprise for many that the term ruha d-qudsa the spirit of holiness is a frequent term in some Jewish texts especially in the Palestinian tradition of the Aramaic translations of the OT or Targumim, Cf. Voobus ed. The Malabar Church, following the East Syrian liturgical tradition, till the 16 1,1 century knew no sacrament of confirmation which caused great uneasiness to the Portuguese missionaries. Aphrahat, Demonstration , VI: 1 and 6.
Schmidt ed. Brock, Luminous Eve , Ephrem, Hymn on Paradise , See G. The translation of this phrase is problematic and for discussions on it, cf. For studies on bnay qyama, see E. For further details on this see, R. Gwynn ed. In the Jewish tradition ihidaya is used for Adam and also for God. So it is fitting that in the Christian texts the second Adam, who is also divine, should be ihidaya. Early Monasticism in Persia , Louvain , ; Voobus, History of Asceticism, Valavanolickal, Aphrahat Demonstrations I, Schmemann, Liturgy and Tradition , T. Fisch ed. Ephrem, Hymns on Nativity , Schdmit ed.
See the study of P. McGinn, J. Leclereq eds. Origins to the Twelfth Century , New York , The Patristic Foundation of the East Syriac Theology Thomas Kuzhuppil In this short study on the patristic theology of the East Syriac tradition we may point out the general characteristics of the patnstic tradition of the Church of the East. It is through the doctrines of the Fathers that the Church of the East had is theological development.
The present study does not claim to comprehend all the characteristic features of the patristic tradition of the Church of the East, but rather it deals with six major points: double heritages of the Church of the East, theology of the imageries, the method of exegesis, the euchanstic-centred life, the pneumatological euchanstic theology and the Logos-Anthropos Christology. By means of the analytical method, we try to perceive the theological nuances inherent in the teachings of those Fathers who lived in the formative period of this Church.
From the earliest times, the theology and the exegesis of Ephrem formed the mam part of the curriculum of the school of Edessa, the first prominent theological school of the Church of the East. Such a transition can be viewed as an organic growth in the theological tradition of the Church of the East. In the later half of the fifth century, with the help of Barsauma, Metropolitan of Nisibis, Narsai shifted the school ca. Theology of the Imageries One of the main characteristic features of the early Syriac writings is the ample use of imageries, and thereby they present the mystery of Christ in symbolic language.
It shows that they continue the Judaeo-Christianity: the biblico-semitic tradition and its symbols. Ephrem, for example, employs the natural and the biblical imagery of fire to demonstrate the divinity, 8 the divine act of sanctification, 9 the Holy Spirit, 10 the divinity of Christ 11 and the mystery of Trinity. Moreover, the use of typological parallels of Christ, such as Enoch and Elijah, the sacrifice of Isaac, the tabernacle, the story of Jonah, Micah, Malachi, and Daniel, 19 show that Narsai was influenced by the early Syriac typological tradition.
In fact, the natural symbols and typological parallels found in the East Syriac liturgical texts manifest that the Church of the East continues the early Syriac heritage of the theology of the imageries. The Method of Exegesis The hermeneutical works of the early Syriac Fathers are particularly rich from the point of view ot historical or literal approach.
Ephrem and Aphrahat show a keen interest in reconstructing the historical events related in the Bible. Like allegorical interpretation, literal interpretation of the Antiochene school is indebted to a certain extent to the culture of the contemporary world. Although, on the one hand, the early Syriac Fathers reconstruct on the historical events, they explore, on the other hand, the spiritual richness of the Scripture through their experience of wonder, love, faith and discernment.
Midrash explains the Bible from the Bible, that is, any of the verses of the Bible can be related to any other. It is in fact the historical reality of the biblical events which serves as a means for them to find out parallels in the Bible.
Such a common heritage is continued thereafter by the Church of the East. The Eucharistic-centred Life For Ephrem it is Christ who really abides in the baptismal water and in the eucharistic bread. In the Eucharist, according to him, one partakes in the entire historical and eternal reality of Christ, namely the Eucharist is nothing less than the entire eschatological mystery of Christ taking place here now in history.
See, Fire and Spirit in the river where you baptized! Similarly, the Antiochene Fathers present the Christian life as centred on the liturgical celebration. For Theodore of Mopsuestia, we are enabled to maintain our existence through the eucharistic food. The earthly liturgy is the mediation of salvation here and now, where one foretastes the eschatological experience. It already gives a share in the world of heavenly realities. The Antiochene Fathers in such a way with their comprehensive understanding of the reality of the humanness of Jesus provide us with a rich eucharistic theology.
All the later commentators of the liturgy of the Church of the East followed the same tradition, particularly the eucharistic mystery expounded by Theodore. The Pneumatological Eucharistic Theology Ephrem expounds further the eucharistic mystery by referring to the role of the Spirit in the liturgical celebration. He finds links between the Eucharist and the incarnation by means of the consecratory role of the Holy Spirit; the Spirit who acted at the moment of the incarnation Lk 1.
Take it, eat with faith, nothing doubting that it is My Body, and that he who eats it with faith, eats in it Fire and Spirit.. Take and eat this, all of you, and eat with it the Holy Spirit. In the biblical and the primitive Christian tradition, baptism is perceived as the anointing of the Spirit; in other words, the Spirit is given at baptism. In this manner, he manifests that the pneumatological understanding of baptism of the pnmitive Christianity has an implication for the Euchanst as well.
The Holy Spint, according to G. Dix, in some sense, was recognized as playing some part in the consecration in the Syriac writings of the third century. We notice a similar form of epiclesis also in the liturgy of St. Cyril of Jerusalem witnesses to an epiclesis with an invocation for the transformation of the gifts. In this manner, the Syriac Fathers formulated a pneumatological eucharistic theology, and which in turn continued in the Syro-Byzantme liturgical tradition. They upheld in fact a unique position in the exposition of the mystery of incarnation, which in turn continued by them throughout the centuries.
In defining the relation of the divine and the human in Chnst, they explained the unity by preserving the properties of each nature without any mixture and confusion. For Theodore of Mopsuestia, the glorified humanity of Christ is the guarantee of our salvation. If the Second Person of the Trinity had not assumed full manhood, human salvation would have remained incomplete. Theodore upholds, on the one hand, the transcendental and the incomprehensible nature of God, and on the other hand, the full humanity assumed by the divine Fogos and its capacity to operate autonomously.
From the Antiochene perspective, an attempt to explain the unity just as connecting two physical or material realities is inadequate. Narsai exhibits Christ as one Person in two natures, and both the natures, according to him, are complete. Accordingly, Christ has two kyane and one parsopa rc'.
For Babai, there is only one parsopa of Filiation, namely one subject in Christ. The Word Divine qnomd assumed to its parsopa of Filiation, the human qnomd. Kyand nature , according to Babai, does not have an existence in itself; it 62 Patristic Theology of the East Syriac Tradition exists only as qndma.
The term two qndme, therefore, signify that two natures ky? In their attempt to expound the mystery of Incarnation, the Antiochene Fathers succeeded in preserving the properties of each nature, and at the same time, explained how the assumed Manhood is an instrument for His salvific act. We confess that one and the same Lord Jesus Chnst, the only-begotten Son, must be acknowledged in two natures, without confusion or change, without division or separation. Such a synthesis was in fact an organic growth, and thereby the Church of the East took shape.
Even though there are differences, there is a common factor in their exegesis that they interpreted the Bible literally respecting the historical dimension of the divine revelation. In their Christological exposition, they upheld double natures, and explained the unity without any kind of mixture and confusion. The eucharistic theology of the Church ot the East has its foundation in their Christological doctrine.
Moreover, they propagated a eucharistic centred life. The Spirit-centred eucharistic theology in general, and the theology of the Spirit- epiclesis in particular, is formulated in Syro-Antiochene milieu. Such a rich eucharistic understanding was continued thereafter by other Eastern Churches. Ortiz de Urbina, Patrologia Syriaca, 2 nd ed.
Voobus, History of the School, Ephrem ca. He served as a deacon in the bishopric of Nisibis. After the fall of Nisibis in , Ephrem came to Edessa ca. Baumstark, Geschichte der syrischen Literatur, Bonn , ; A. Scher ed. Moffett, A History of Christianity in Asia, vol. Amar trs , St. Ephrem, Rome ; Revised edition, Kalamazoo , Exodus 3,2; Epi 4, Nat ; CDiat 1, Brock, The Luminous Eve, Naduvilezham, The Theology? Gignoux ed. Les homelies de Narsai sur la creation, PO 34, , Tumhout, , , Mmgana ed.
Mingana, Narsai doctoris syri homiliae, In comparison with early Syriac tradition, Theodore of Mopsuestia employs a limited number of natural symbols and types; he preserves only the traditional typological parallels used in the Bible. Livingstone ed. Sasbo ed. The Greek word theoria means the act of seeing. Antiochians have employed Patristic Theology of the East Syriac Tradition 65 it for the prophetic vision of the Bible and adapted it as a principle ol their hermeneutics.
For them what the prophet has actually seen is the future mysteries of the Messiah. Louth, Discerning the Mystery, Oxford, , ; K. Murray, Symbols of Church and Kingdom, ; M. Simonetti, Biblical Interpretation, 3; G. Stemberger, Introduction to theHalmud and Midrash, Edinburgh , They interpreted the Old Testament by relating to the immediate situation of the sect and its struggles. Dodd, According to the Scriptures, Cambridge , ; E. Grech, Ermeneutica e teologia biblica, Roma , ; C. Brock tr. Brock, The Luminous Eye, Grillmeier, Christ in Christian Tradition, vol.
Devreesse ed. McLeod ed. You are all Isaiah. And that altar is this table. That temple is this room. The Lord of that temple is I. Behold, the prophecy has been fulfilled. Syri , Padinjarekuttu, J. Di Nola ed. Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy, London , Connolly, Didascalia Apostolorum, Oxford , It is originally an ecclesiastical document of the third century written in Greek.
Today, we come to know it only through other versions. Funk, Didascalia et Constitutions Apostolorum, vol. Mingana ed. Devreesse, Les homelies catechetiques, o0 H. Mingana, Theodore on the Sacraments, Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, 4 th ed. The Trinitarian and the Christological reflections of Ephrem are based on two concepts: qnomd and kyana. Thus the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit distinguish themselves in their own qnome hypostases. The divine qnoma divine nature is not the human qnomd human nature , and therefore, both are in the incarnate Word.
Kyana is a name common to God. It refers to the divine mystery; above all, to the divine nature that is Trinitarian. The term qnoma not reduces simply to 68 Patristic Theology of the East Syriac Tradition the existence of a thing; it maintains an essential connection with kydnd, from which it is never separated. When the aspect of nature divine nature is given more emphasis, it is synonymous to kydnd.
Bou Mansour, La pensee symbolique de saint Ephrem le Syrien, Sellers, Two Ancient Christologies, London , Grillmeier, Christ in Christian Tradition, , ; B. Narsai rarely uses the term kydnd to explain the Trinitarian mystery, and instead of it, he opts for the term Ituta ousia to designate the divine Unity. In his Christological exposition, Narsai uses kydnd as an equivalent to physis nature. Accordingly, Christ has two qnorne parallel to two kyane, and one pdrsopd of Filiation. Dupuis, The Christian Faith, 4 th ed.
From their writings it becomes clear how important the Sacred Scripture was in the life of the Church. Their interpretations tell us in unambiguous words about their approach to the Word of God. Each Demonstration begins with a consecutive letter of the Syriac alphabet. He was an ascetic and probably a bishop. He follows the Pesitta than the Septuagint. He also seems to have made use of the Diatessaron of Tatian.
Aphrahat as a Biblical Theologian Aphrahat gives us some hints about the methodology he uses in understanding and explaining the Scriptures in lus Biblical Theology of Aphrahat and Ephrem 70 Demonstrations. Here, of course, Aphrahat has an adapted rendering of the Psalm. What he seems to say is that scripture can have different meanings as a pearl can have different appearances depending on the angle from which one looks at it; and the perception of the sages may differ. Faith as the Foundation Aphrahat wrote in prose though often he used rhythmic patterns with thematic or typological parallelisms and testimonies in his presentation of theological themes.
Furthermore also believes in the sacrament of baptism. This is the faith of the Church of God. Jesus is the foundation of all faith, on his person it is built 71 Biblical Theology of Aphrahat and Ephrem up. He who believes, loves and hopes is justified and perfected as well as consummated. The person becomes a dwelling place ot Christ. Here Aphrahat quotes Jer 7. Again he quotes from Lev He also refers to the Johannine idea of mutual indwelling Jn Here we are to think that he adjusted the scriptural words to the context without neglecting or ignoring its spirit.
What is said in the text of Leviticus is seen by Aphrahat as the active presence of God in all. Prophet Jeremiah, indeed, wanted to say that the human temple was more important than the physical structure of the temple in Jerusalem; he demanded harmony between worship and everyday life.
That God dwells in a human person can be equally well expressed by saying that Jesus dwells in a person. After speaking about faith Aphrahat adds that it has to be nurtured by prayer, love, almsgiving, and meekness. One may even choose virginity it was very much valued in Syriac Christian life. These are seen as ingredients of or expressions of faith.
What matters is the circumcision of the heart. Here Aphrahat the biblical theologian is following Paul in giving a correct understanding of Christian baptism. Biblical Theology of Aphrahat and Ephrem 72 1. Typological Parallels and Lists of Testimonies Typological parallels and lists of testimonies are important in Aphrahat. And he remarks that Jesus healed those who believed Dem 1. It caused the barren to bring forth. It delivered from the sword. It raised up from the pit. It enriched the poor. It released the captives.
It delivered the persecuted.
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It brought down fire. It divided the sea. It cleft the rock, and gave to the thirsty water to drink. It satisfied the hungry. It raised the dead, and brought them up from Sheol. It stilled the billows. It healed the sick. It conquered hosts. It overthrew walls. It stopped the mouths of lions, and quenched the flame of fire. It humiliated the proud, and brought the humble to honour. In these testimonia the author goes round and round a theme with scriptural examples to convince the reader On Death in Dem The Idea of Divinisation It is a theological theme that has been developed by the Greek Fathers who were helped by Greek thinkers.
In his Demonstration on the Monks, Aphrahat gives some elementary ideas which are based on the Bible. After quoting 1 Cor Again, after citing 1 Cor Here the idea is that humans are to be conformed to Christ who is the perfect icon of God. Everything is to come to fulfilment when the Son of Man receives the Kingdom from the Ancient of Days. All other kingdoms will come to an end and the Kingdom ot Christ will be eternal. The author has also another description of the four kingdoms.
The final one is that of the King Messiah who was to destroy the image in the vision of Daniel 2. Because the Jews rejected the Kingdom, the nations are taking its place in the plan of God. Strangely, Aphrahat does not say anything about the eschatological aspect of the Kingdom as St Paul does 2 Cor Ephrem ca was probably bom of Christian parents at Nisibis, an outpost of the eastern Roman empire which was geographically in north-eastern Mesopotamia and was conquered by the Persians in The earliest external witness we have about Ephrem and his writings is from St.
Jerome who wrote in , nineteen years after his death.
He attained such distinction that his writings are read in some churches after the Scriptural lections. I have read a work of his on the Holy Spirit, which someone had translated from Syriac into Greek, and even in translation I could recognize the acumen of a lofty intellect. About him the modem Orthodox theologian J. Whether or not one is able to read him in the original Syriac, one has to acknowledge that he is the greatest Christian poet of his age. One can only regret that there seems to be no way of restoring his musical melodies, which he doubtlessly composed also, and which were an integral part ot his meditation on the mysteries of faith.
Ephrem is always able to transcend frozen formulas and to maintain that extraordinary biblical freshness that gives the early Syriac Christian tradition a favour of true universality. This is particularly true of Ephrem 1 s theology ot the incarnation, his sacramental typology and his understanding of ethical issues. The Three Sources of Revelation According to Ephrem, the basic modes of divine revelation are the visible signs in nature, the types and symbols in the Scriptures as well as in the person of the Son of God who became man.
Ephrem speaks about three sources ot revelation: the universe, the Scripture and the Incarnation of the eternal Word of God. Then, of course, the Son of God become man is the supreme manifestation of God Heb 1. McVey has well articulated how Ephrem sees Christ harmoniously blending the music of the three harps which are signs, symbols and 75 Biblical Theology of Aphrahat and Eplirem prototypes here.
Here nature and Scripture are mentioned as modes of divine revelation: But who has seen our Lord and admired His playing on three harps? He bends their counterpoint wisely lest their hearers be alienated: signs, symbols and prototypes, so that nature and scripture may convince. In his book Moses, described the creation of the natural world so that both Nature and Scripture might bear witness to the Creator: Blessed are you, O Church, whose congregation sings with three glorious harps. Your finger plucks the harp of Moses, and [the harp] of our Saviour and [the harp] of nature On Virginity Ephrem is, however, fully aware of the chasm that separates the creature from the creator.
Ephrem writes: Whoever is capable of investigating becomes the container of what he investigates; knowledge which is capable of containing the Omniscient is greater than Him On Faith 9A6. If you investigate the person of God, you will perish, but if you believe in the name, you will live. From Creation to the Creator God created the world through his Word, and though not an emanation from him and only far remotely and in a symbolic way, it really proclaims ngd something of his glory and has a theophanic role Ps It speaks about God and his plan for human salvation.
In Scripture is a divine condescension in the sense that God has adopted human language to speak to us. The Son as Revealer par excellence Full revelation is got in the incarnate Son of God in whom all the three sources of revelation reach their culmination. In him the ontological chasm that separated God from creation is removed. At the centre of the history of salvation is Christ who is simultaneously the metaphysical mediator between the Creator and the creation. Ephrem sees the three combined and clarified in Jesus in a wonderful way: The Word of the most High came down and put on a weak body with hands, and He took two harps [Old and New Testaments] in His right and left hands.
Who will not give thanks to the Hidden One, most hidden of all, who came to open revelation, most open of all, for He put on a body, and other bodies felt Him though minds never grasped Him On Faith Yes, Your obscurity has come to manifestation and notification; Your concealed Being has come out into the open, without limitation On Faith Aspect of Veiling in the Revelations In all the three revelations there is also an aspect of veiling which can be unveiled only with the help of faith On Faith Only in faith we are able to see the creator behind creation; only in faith we hear God in the Scripture and only in faith we are able to recognise God in the person of Jesus.
The unbeliever denies the creator On Paradise 5. In his biblical and Semitic approach to divine realities, including revelation, Ephrem sees a necessary limitation in our perception. An overdose of Greek philosophy with the words prosopon , physis, and ousia with the corresponding Syriac terms, caused much confusion and even divisions in the Church. A simple biblical faith that accepted Jesus as the incarnate Son of God should not have caused all these troubles. Besides, these terminologies have really added nothing to our faith or knowledge.
According to him in Scripture God put on names, and in Incarnation he put on flesh. The inner meaning is got through what again he calls raze, types and symbols that are present in the text. We have to remember that Ephrem lived at a time when Scripture was taken literally and historical criticism was unknown.
But that does not mean that he was not using his intelligence to discern the true meaning of the Bible. He considered the outer historical meaning of scripture as important as the humanity of Christ. With the help of the types and symbols he was trying to 79 Biblical Theology of Aphrahat and Ephrem decode its inner salvific meaning.
For Ephrem the human language of scripture was important but he cautioned that one is not to be misled by the human language alone On Paradise Ephrem speaks about a multiplicity ot inner meanings possible in the Bible. He has hidden in his word all kinds of treasures so that each one of us, wherever we meditate, may be enriched by it. His utterance is a tree of life, which offers you blessed fruit from every side.
It is like that rock which burst forth in the desert, becoming spiritual drink to everyone from all places. Therefore, whoever encounters of its riches must not think that that alone which he has found is all that is in it, but [rather] that it is this alone that he is capable of finding from the many things in it. Enriched by it, let him not think that he has impoverished it. But rather let him give thanks for its greatness, he that is unequal to it. Rejoice that you have been satiated, and do not be upset that it is richer than you.
The thirsty one rejoices because he can drink, but is not upset because he is unable to render the source dry. The well can conquer your thirst, but your thirst cannot conquer the fountain Com. Diatessaron 1. God reveals himself through types and symbols which are not to be taken as coercive, rather as persuasive. Human intelligence is limited, yet it is open to the Infinite.
Type is a person, thing or event which foreshadows a person, thing or event. The Paschal Lamb is a type of Christ in Christian understanding. Here something the typos or model typifies something else. Again symbol is something that represents or recalls another thing.
The tricolour is a symbol of the nation for Indians and the cross stands for Christ for the Christians. All our deep experiences, the religious as well, are expressed in symbolic language, which is free and limitless. It is the language of poets, prophets and visionaries. It has the capacity to move us, inspire us, and claim us. It points beyond itself to ultimate meaning. Scripture, like poetry, is not primarily information about the past, but a lens for looking at the present.
In his Commentary on Exodus In every place, if you look, His symbol is there, and when you read, you will find His types. For by Him were created all creatures, and he engraved His symbols upon His possessions. When He created the world, He gazed at it and adorned it with His images.
Now the lamb is a symbol of Our Lord, who was conceived on the tenth of Nisan. For Zachariah was told on the tenth day of the seventh month that John was going to be bom, and six months later, when the message was brought to Mary by the angel, was the tenth day of the first month. So on the tenth when the lamb was confined, our Lord was conceived in the womb, and on the fourteenth when he was slain, the One it symbolised was crucified. As for the unleavened bread, with bitter herb that Scripture mentions, there is a sign of his renewal in the unleavened bread, and the bitter herb is because those who bear him suffer.
The symbolic lamb was suspended when the true lamb came. The Lamb of God brought the types to nought. There were the symbols woven for him by the Holy Spirit. Here Ephrem uses the word raza for what is translated as type and symbol, perhaps pointing to its character of revealing and veiling. Of course, his background aroused the poet in him, 12 but more, his search for the spmtual meaning of Scripture gave him a poetic perception of the written divine revelation.
Any number of passages could be cited to underline the evocative power of his poems: Blessed be the child Who today delights Bethlehem. Blessed be the Newborn Who today made humanity young again. Blessed be the Fruit Who bowed Himself down for our hunger. Blessed be the Gracious One Who suddenly enriched all our poverty and filled our need.
Blessed be He Whose mercy inclined Him to heal our sickness Thanks to the Fountainhead sent for our salvation. Thanks to the One Who violated the Sabbath in its fulfilment. Thanks to the One Who rebuked leprosy and it remained not. Fever also saw Him and departed. Thanks to the Compassionate One Who bore our pain.
Glory to Your coming that restored humankind to life On Nativity 1. In the above highly evocative lines, the great poet and teacher of the Church gives us the meaning and significance of the birth of Jesus on our everyday life. Through his Incarnation Jesus has caused joy and blessing to the whole world; he has made us young and healthy, he has given himself as food for us, and in his Biblical J heology of Aphrahat and Ephrem 82 poverty he has enriched us and has healed us who are sick. He is the fountainhead of our salvation, he was master of the Sabbath, and he cleansed people of leprosy and healed the fever-stricken.
He, the compassionate one, bore our sufferings. His coming restored us to life.
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A long theological treatise is given here in a spicy memorable capsule. In the Hymns on the Virginity 4. From the great treasury of all creation Mary gave to Him everything that she gave. She gave Him milk from what He made exist. She gave Him food from what He had created. He gave milk to Mary as God. In turn, He was given suck by her as human. Who would be able to measure His grandeur? He diminished His measurements corresponding to the garment But if Your mother is incomprehensible, who is capable of [comprehending] You?
For she is Your mother - she alone - and your sister with all. She was to You mother; she was to You sister. In everything, You adorned her, beauty of Your mother On Nativity 11 2. Contextual Interpretation The biblical word is to be a challenge to our concrete life. That the eternal Word became flesh also means that the written word of God should enlighten the historical situation of the community that reads and interprets it. In the Nisibian Hymns Ephrem reflects on the Ark in the deluge to understand the sieges of the Persian king Shapur on the city of Nisibis, especially the third attack in which the king tried to undermine the fortifications of the city by diverting the river Mygdonius to engulf it.
Here the city speaks about her pathetic situation and appeals to the Lord: All kinds of storms trouble me and I count the Ark fortunate: Only waves surrounded it, but ramps and arrows as well waves surround me. The Ark acted as a store for treasure for You, but I have become a deposit of sins. The Ark subdued the waves through Your love, whereas I have been blinded amidst the arrows through Your anger.
The Flood bore the Ark, while me the river threatens. O helmsman of the Ark, be my pilot on dry land; You rested the Ark on the haven of a mountain, give rest to me too in the haven of my walls On Nisibis 1. The spiritual lesson that Ephrem draws out of the event is remarkable: He saved us without a wall and taught us that He is our wall.
He saved us without a king and made known that he is our king. He saved us in all from all and showed He is all. Biblical Theology of Aphrahat and Ephrem 84 He saved us by His grace and again revealed that He is freely gracious and life-giving. From each who boasts He takes away the boast and gives to him His grace On Nisibis 2.
Ephrem 1 s interpretation and application of the parables of Jesus is a compelling example of his contextualisation. He provides us with a reading of the text in the context of life. Some Important Features of the Biblical Theology of the Syriac Fathers So far we have been deliberating on the method of approach discernible in the writings of Aphrahat and Ephrem. Now we try to have a look at their specific contributions in the understanding of mankind, sin, the Incarnation of the Son of God and his death and Resurrection which are important and decisive moments in the history of human salvation.
Our understanding of humanity and sin is based on what we have in the book of Genesis which is the first among what the Hebrews called Torah instruction or guidance and was translated as nomos law in the Greek Septuagint. Here, according to S. Brock, 15 Ephrem has the Jewish Aramaic uraytd to the torah than namdsa , related to nomos which means that he understood the Pentateuch as a guidance given by God as the Hebrews correctly did, and not as a book of law.
Though there are laws in it, it is much more than a collection of laws. Creation of Humans Here we remember that the first eleven chapters of the book of Genesis are primeval history in metaphorical language not to be taken literally, though they shed true light on humanity giving inspired insights on God and humanity. Aphrahat writes about God who made man in his image Deni 1. According to him Adam was conceived and dwelt in the thought of God before the other creations were made. Ephrem gives importance to both the Jahwist and Priestly traditions.
In his Commentary on Genesis 1.
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For he was young in creation, but elderly in honour. And the first things that were before him were last in their being; the late in their names. Ephrem notes two special characteristics in the creation of Adam as different from that of animals. Man is from the earth and earthy. This image character is shared by Adam and Eve in both the traditions as the word adam and its corresponding Nasa can simply mean human in general, which is the sense accepted by modem biblical theologians. Here Ephrem has a wonderful interpretation. On Gen 2. Here one may find a kind of androgynism which was found among the Greeks and old Jewish tradition.
Biblical Theology of Aphrahat and Ephrem 86 3. Paradise Lost Ephrem is aware of the metaphorical character of the story of Paradise as articulated in the Hymn on Paradise 2. According to our author the first parents were created in an intermediary state, neither mortal nor immortal. And with the dominion over the other creatures, man was like a king.
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He writes: A garden full of glory, a chaste bridal chamber, did he give to that king fashioned from the dust, sanctifying and separating the abode of wild animals; for glorious was Adam in all things On Paradise But Ephrem writes about his creation and condemnation by God for sin. He became envious of Adam and Eve and that caused his fall Hymn on Church He cheated Eve in the form of a serpent Com. By not eating the fruit of the Tree of knowledge, they were to become worthy of the Tree of life.
In his paradoxical way Ephrem writes what happened to Adam who disobeyed God: He lost what he had desired, and found what he dreaded; it was disgrace, instead of glory, that God caused the audacious man to know Paradise And God gave man enough time to repent and he came to question him only some time after the disobedience. Paradise Genesis 34 as accepted by modem exegetes. He put on our weak body, and infirm nature on Virginity In the hymns on Nativity 8. He mingled the two natures like pigments and an image came into being; the God-man.
It reminds us of the words of Athanasius of Aartioch who spoke about the Son of God becoming Man to make sons of humans, sons of God. Glory to that Living One Whose Son became a mortal. Glory to the Great One Whose Son descended and became small. With the eye and the mind - with both we saw him On Nativity 3. Grace clothed itself in human likeness in order to bnng him to the likeness of itself On Paradise Re-entry into Paradise In Syriac tradition salvation is re-entry into the lost paradise; of course it was to be new and superior as restored by Christ.
For, through one the death won and through the other life flourishes On the Church Genesis 3. In this context we remember that in Syriac tradition the pierced side of Jesus Jn If you do not receive an email within 10 minutes, your email address may not be registered, and you may need to create a new Wiley Online Library account. If the address matches an existing account you will receive an email with instructions to retrieve your username. Tools Request permission Export citation Add to favorites Track citation. Share Give access Share full text access.
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