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To Train His Soul in Books

Syriac Asceticism in Early Christianity

Robin Darling Young

Publication Year: 2012

To Train His Soul in Books explores numerous aspects of this rich religious culture, extending previous lines of scholarly investigation and demonstrating the activity of Syriac-speaking scribes and translators busy assembling books for the training of biblical interpreters, ascetics, and learned clergy.

Published by: The Catholic University of America Press

Series: CUA studies in early Christianity

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi

This volume of essays, a collection of studies on the work of Ephrem the Syrian and subsequent developments in Syriac-speaking asceticism, is a small sign of the respect and fondness its authors share for Professor Sidney H. Griffith. Some of the authors...

Part I: Poetry and Ephrem the Syrian

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1. Syriac Strophic Poetry: Intercalated Psalms

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pp. 3-22

Beginning with the New Testament itself, early Christian literature abounds with references to the use of the psalms in Christian worship.1 Although the psalms were employed in a variety of ways, the evidence suggests that the simplest, and perhaps earliest...

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2. Efrén de Nisibe, Himnos de Virginitate, I-III

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pp. 23-54

Mi primer contacto con S. Efrén tuvo lugar en Jerusalén, allá por el año 1978, en el monasterio sirio ortodoxo de S. Marcos. La profesora que aquel curso enseñaba siríaco en L’École Biblique, Kathleen E. McVey, llevó a sus alumnos a participar en una liturgia de...

Part II: Texts, Terms, Metaphors

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3. Redeem Your Sins Through Works of Charity

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pp. 57-65

In the fourth chapter of the Book of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar has a dream and the prophet Daniel is summoned to give an interpretation. In this dream, a tree, abundant in foliage and rich in fruit, rises up in the midst of the earth, providing shade...

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4. A Monastic Setting for the Syriac Apocalypse of Daniel

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pp. 66-98

Just over a year and a half ago as I write, Professor Matthias Henze of Rice University published an edition with text, translation, annotations, and introduction of a Syrian Christian pseudepigraphon, which he entitled the Syriac Apocalypse of Daniel (hereafter, SAD).1 The document is preserved...

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5. A Syriac Life of Athanasius of Alexandria

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pp. 99-121

In 1978 Arthur Vööbus published a brief description of a Syriac life of Athanasius of Alexandria, which he had discovered in the manuscript collection formerly of the Mar Hananya Monastery in Tur ‘Abdin.1 This Vita Athanasii syriaca (VAS) was bound in a large codex...

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6. The Radical Renunciation: The Ideal of msarrqûtâ

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pp. 122-133

Although this passage from one of the Sermones attributed to Ephrem cannot possibly be by the saint himself,2 it usefully serves to introduce right at the outset some of the main features of msarrqûtâ. But before drawing out these features, we need to face the problem of how best to render the term in English. Dictionaries and modern translations offer a variety of possibilities, such as “privation,” “voluntary poverty...

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7. Housekeeping: An Ascetic Theme in Late Antiquity

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pp. 134-154

One of the motifs especially dear to early Christian writers was that of the house as a metaphor for the human person, or of the body as a temple or sanctuary. Biblical allusions from both the Hebrew Bible and New Testament underlay this imagery. In Late Antiquity...

Part III: After Ephrem the Syrian

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8. The Influence of Evagrius of Pontus

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pp. 157-175

In about 460, a young Persian Christian named Aksenâyâ traveled north from his home province of Beth Garmai to become a student at the school of Edessa. Already committed to the monastic life, he undertook there a study of the works of Cyril of Alexandria. That...

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9. The Syriac Discourses of Beh Isho‘ Kamulaya

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pp. 176-188

Purity of heart is an important concept in early Christian ascetical and monastic literature.1 It is also an important theme in the writings of a late eighthcentury East Syrian monk, Beh Isho‘ Kamulaya, whose writings have only recently been rediscovered. I would like to...

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10. Ode to Joy

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pp. 189-204

The genesis of this soġīt.ā was the presentation of a festschrift1 to Fr. Sidney Griffith, professor of Semitic languages at the Catholic University of America. Dr. Monica Blanchard, of the Institute of Christian Oriental Research at the university, kindly invited this writer to...

Bibliography of the Works of Sidney H. Griffith

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pp. 205-236


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pp. 217

E-ISBN-13: 9780813219110
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813217321

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1
Series Title: CUA studies in early Christianity

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Asceticism -- History -- Early church, ca. 30-600.
  • Ephraem, Syrus, Saint, 303-373.
  • Syrian churches -- History.
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