Knowledge of Ephraim’s Writings in the Merovingian and Carolingian Age
Ganz, David (DEPARTMENT OF CLASSICS KING’S COLLEGE LONDON)
Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies, Vol. 2.1, 37–46 (1999)
This paper is a statement of problems, rather than any attempt at their premature resolution. Fundamental questions about the reception of Ephraim’s works in the Latin West, such as when and where the Latin translation was made, or what factors determined its popularity, await investigation. Prior to such investigation the evidence of transmission is our clearest evidence for the reception of the Latin Ephraim. I shall suggest that it is unlikely that his works were widely known, but that they constituted a representative aspect of early medieval spirituality. That spirituality still awaits its historian: the writings of Ephraim do not fit readily into the history of exegesis or of theological development. Standard accounts of Carolingian thought say nothing about his influence, or his importance. Indeed to discuss Ephraim may be entirely premature; until we have an available text of the Latin Ephraim and can investigate borrowings from that text in the writings of early medieval authors, our knowledge of his influence is utterly incomplete.
Jerome included him in his de viris inlustribus, and had read a Greek version of his treatise on the Holy Spirit, though he lists no other writings. But the absence of explicit mention of Ephraim in Carolingian accounts of theological writings suggests that his influence was small. He tells us that he was asked and instructed in how to write it by his teacher Ursinus. “Just as sparks come from a fire so here short sentences from the many books of the scriptures will be found shining.” He emphasizes that he has identified the authors he quotes lest his work be thought apocryphal and without an author.