The Ephrem Graecus Project of the PPI


The 'Ephrem Graecus Project' of the Pappas Patristic Institute is a research initiative devoted to the study and translation of the voluminous Greek writings attributed to St. Ephrem the Syrian, long at the center of Orthodox Christian monasticism and liturgical reading.


The writings attributed to St. Ephrem the Syrian are historically divided into two corpora: a Syriac collection and a Greek collection, the latter being largely independent of the former. For many centuries, Christians in the 'West' (including Greece, Romania, and Russia) had access only to the Greek collection, which are appointed to be read in Church, especially during the season of the Triodion. These writings were translated early on into Slavonic and generally exercised an enormous impact on Orthodox ascetical theology, making the name of St. Ephrem synonymous with paraenetic monastic literature and the theme of repentance. This reputation is encapsulated in the so-called 'Prayer of St. Ephrem,' which comes from the Greek writings and constitutes the clarion call of the Great Fast.


In the 18th century, an edition of the Syriac writings (i.e, of the 'authentic' Ephrem) was published in Rome, to which St. Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain responded with enthusiasm. The Syriac writings also included a Latin translation, rendering them, for the first time, highly accessible to those who could not read Syriac. In his Synaxarion notice for St. Ephrem, St. Nikodimos writes that, “The writings of Saint Ephrem are published in six volumes: three in Greek and Latin, and three in Syriac and Latin. Wherefore, let those that know Latin take thought to also translate the Syriac writings into Greek, or the vernacular. And let them not neglect these remarkable writings of the saint and allow their compatriots to be deprived…. If they neglect them, they will be judged like the wicked servant who buried his Lord’s talent in the earth” (Synaxarion, 28 January).


Since the 18th century, the situation has in fact been reversed, though the call to use one's linguistic training remains relevant. In the past sixty years, the Syriac corpus has begun to be critically edited and translated, not from the Latin, but from the original Syriac. And yet it is now the Greek corpus which has faded from view, especially in the anglophone world. Languishing under the stigma of pseudepigrapha, the Greek writings attributed to St. Ephrem the Syrian today receive almost no scholarly attention and remaining basically unknown in English.


The aim of the 'Ephrem Graecus Project' is therefore to contribute to the study of the neglected Greek writings attributed to St. Ephrem the Syrian, which fill seven volumes in the modern edition and make translations of these texts more widely accessible to a modern audience. The website of the Ephrem Graecus Project, saintephrem.org, includes a blog with reflections on the world of the 'Greek Ephrem,' original translations from the Greek corpus, an extensive bibliography, and images of Byzantine, Slavonic, and other manuscripts of the writings attributed to St. Ephrem the Syrian.


The Ephrem Graecus Project is run by the Assistant Director of the Pappas Patristic Institute, Dr. Tikhon Pino, and frequently features translations and research from other scholars in the field.