that the Hebrew Bible was half as important as the New Testament. From the beginning Ephrem, like most Christians, was determinedly supersessionist, but the efforts ofthe emperor Julian to rebuild the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem radicalised Christian understandings of Judaism. After 363, Ephrem became virulently anti-Jewish, as did other Christian theologians within the sphere of Byzantine influence.

Ephrem's most popular compositions were the metrical poems he composed to be sung by choirs of women in the churches. They provide access to the religious vision ofthe fourth-century Christians. More than 450 hymns have survived. These were early organised into 'cycles' or collections of hymns around various themes. Already during his lifetime these were translated into Greek, and eventually into diverse languages including Latin, Armenian, Georgian, old Slavonic, Coptic, Ethiopic, Arabic and Chinese. The problems of authenticity are significant, as many sought to duplicate his artistry and to have their work passed off under his name. Ephrem is one of the very few Christian theologians to be honoured in all branches of the Christian church, through the centuries, as a teacher and saint.

The next generation of Syriac Christianity in Byzantine northern Mesopotamia was led by leaders such as Rabbula (d. 435) who were not afraid to use the power of the state and the mobs to enforce Christian orthodoxy. Born in Calcis to a pagan father and Christian mother, Rabbula converted to Christianity about 400. He was consecrated bishop of Edessa (411/12-35). As bishop he led a bloody campaign against the Jews, pagans and those considered heretics. He destroyed at least four pagan temples and a synagogue. Rabbula also destroyed at least 400 copies of the Diatessaron and replaced it with the separate Gospels in the Syriac Peshitta version to conform to the standards of the Western churches. His inflexible administrative style and harsh treatment of those with whom he disagreed won him many enemies. He did, however, organise food relief for the poor and built an infirmary for the care of the sick. He also apparently codified the monastic rules and established strict guidelines for the lifestyle of clergy, monks and laity.

The theologians of Edessa had normally been partisans of the East Syrian tradition that revered the teachings of Diodore of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia. At the Council of Ephesus (431), Rabbula continued this tradition by refusing to condemn Theodore and Nestorius. However, he changed his mind and became an enthusiastic and doctrinaire supporter ofthe politics and theological position of Cyril of Alexandria. He then banned the writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia and of Nestorius from Edessa. This put him even more at odds with significant segments of his clergy. His contentious and

0 0

Post a comment