25 The allusion is to the legend that Abgar, King of Edessa, hearing the fame of the Lord Jesus, sent a letter inviting him to his city, and received in reply a letter from Him conveying His blessing, and a promise to send a disciple to teach him and his people. This promise was afterwards fulfilled by the mission of Thaddeus (Addae) to Edessa. (Eusebius, Hist. Eccles. I. 13.)
29 There is no ground for supposing that Gregory could read Syriac. It follows therefore that some of Ephraim's wntings must have been at a very early date translated into Greek; and that one of these was the Testament which Gregory refers to no less than five times in the Encomium.
32 This was first clearly established by Spanheim (Observationes in Julianum, pp. 183 ff., 188ff.; 1696) in part anticipated by Petave (Petavius) and de Valois (Valesius). He has been followed in this by nearly all historians, including Gibbon (Decline and Fall. chap. xviii)
35 Ephraim seems to convey that Sapor, when repulsed, at once withdrew : Julian represents his withdrawal as gradual. The former probably has in view the raising of the siege; the latter, the retreat from the invaded territory.
38 So (e.g.) Baronius, Annales (s. q. 338); Ada Sanctorumi, Febr. (I. p. 51). A few quite recent writers follow these. This error of Theodoret thus ascribing to the first siege the events which belong to the history of the third, is easily accounted for. His narrative of the siege and the breaching of the walls, the apparition, and St. Jacob's prayer answered by the plague of mosquitoes, originally appeared in his earlier work, the Religious History-a collection of lives of miracle-working saints of whom St. Jacob stands first-from which (as he himself notes) he has transferred it with little change, to his Ecclesiastical History. As the biographer of this, the greatest Bishop of Nisibis, Theodoret would naturally associate with his name all that history or tradition reported of Divine protection extended to the city in her perils-especially in those of her last and most signal siege which ended in her most signal deliverance. He probably knew that a siege of Nisibis had occurred in St. Jacob's time, and would readily overlook the brief interval of twelve years by which the saint's death preceded the later siege.
One of the Nisibene Hymns (XIII. 18, 19, 21) suggests a further explanation how this third siege came to be attached to the legend of St. Jacob. His body was treasured reverently in the city, and to its presence her deliverance was attributed. Thus, he was still (in Ephraim's words) "the fountain within her," "the fruit in her bosom," "the body laid within her that became for her a wall without." The traditions of that dead presence in the last siege, and of his living presence in the first, would soon blend together; and the expression of pious gratitude for the protection ascribed by the besieged of 350 to the virtue of his remains, would be mistaken as evidence that the man himself was among them to help them by his prayers and exhortations in the struggle by which the fall of their city was so narrowly averted.
39 In the Chronicle, we read that Sapor saw, in the daytime, "a man running to and fro on the walls," in the likeness of the Emperor; but again, we are told of "the angel that appeared." In Theodoret's narratives the apparition wears the royal "purple and diadem," and is described as "divine" (Hist. Relig.), and "incorporeal" (Hist. Eccles.). In the Chronography, "an angel stands on the tower, in shining raiment, holding by the hand the Emperor Constantius"; a duplication of the vision which seemingly arose from a misunderstanding of the Chronicle.
That Constantius was not in Nisibis during this siege, is a point on which all authorities are agreed. Jilian, while lavishing on the Emperor unmeasured praises for the repulse of Sapor, attributes it not to his personal presence, but to his foresight in previous preparations made a year before. He is known, however, to have sojourned in the city in May, 345,-see Cod Theodosianus, (XI. 7, 5) for a law issued thence by him on the 12th of that month (Lex. 5 de exactionibuss).
40 The Nisibene Hymns, only recovered some fifty years ago from the Nitrian Monastery of the Theotokos, and first printed in 1866, yielding as they do authoritative and contemporary confirmation of the accounts of the siege given by Julian and by Valgesh, come in as decisive evidence to prove that the Chronicler of the seventh century and the Chronographer of the ninth had better fortune or better judgment in their choice of authorities than Theodoret in the fifth. It is, moreover, a signal instance of the true historical instinct that guided Gibbon in his great work, that in relating this history (ch. xviii.), he followed Julian and the Chronicle, and refused to he misled (as our biographer was) by Theodoret-except as regards St. Jacob whom he supposed to have been still Bishop in 350.
The first to point out this error as to St. Jacob, was Valesius in his note on the passage in Theodoret (H. E. II.30), as above. He remarked that "the Alexandrine (Paschal) Chronicle makes Vologeses (Valgesh), not Jacob, Bishop of Nisibis in 350." It was replied (and with justice) that the Chronicle, though it records the siege, and cites the Epistle of Valgesh, Bishop of the city, does not say that he was Bishop at the time of the siege. Another Chronicle, the Edessene (a relic of the sixth century), first printed by Assemani in 1719 (Biblioth. Orient. I., pp.388 ff.) determines 338 as the date of Jacob's death, and 361 as that of Valgesh. Our Nisibene Hymns (see above,note 4) make it plain that Valgesh was bishop in 350, as Valesius rightly (though on insufficient grounds) laid down.
43 It is mentioned by Huntington (afterwards Provost of Trinity College, Dublin, and finally Bishop of Raphoe) who visited the place, 1678-9 (see his Epistolae, XXXIX., p. 60) : again by J. S. Assemani in 1715 (see reference in note 6). More recent visitors (Lord de la Zouche in 1837, and Archdeacon Tattam in 1839) do not speak of it.
Of the Nitrian monasteries (reputed to have once numbered fifty, or even more), the principal one, that of the Theotokos, whence the libraries of the Vatican and of the British museum have derived their most precious acquisitions of Syriac mss., belongs to the Syrian Jacobites, whose Church has always been in full communion with that of the Copts. A second belongs to the Copts; a third to the Greeks. The fourth (that of St. Pesöes) does not appear to be specially appropriated, but to be mainly Coptic, though (as appears above) not to the exclusion of Syrians.
44 See Professor Lamy's edition of Ephraim, II., coll. 94ff, for the authorities on this point,-of which the chief are:-The Edessene Chronicle (sixth century) and Jacob of Edessa (seventh century-cited bv Elias of Nisibis), both of whom give 373 as the date, as does also the early Chronicle contained in the "Book of the Caliphs." Jerome (De Viris. Illustr. cxv.) merely says that Ephraim died in the reign of Valens,-i. e. not later than 378, and therefore before Basil.
47 On the 9th, according to Chron., Edes. and the shorter Life; the Vatican Life says the 15th; the Book of the Caliphs (see Land's Anecdota, Tom. I., p. 15 [Syr. text]) and most other authorities, the 18th ; Dionysius, in his Chronicle, the 19th (ap. Assemani, B. O. II., p.54).
48 It is to be regretted that neither the Parisian Life, nor the Nisibene Hymns, was before the writer of the article Ephraim in Smith and Wace's Dictionary of Christian Biography. The former would have warned him from being misled by the Vatican Life into the error of ascribing to Julian the persecution under Valens; the latter would have shown him that both versions of the Life confuse the first siege of Nisibis with the third.
49 The passage is as follows: "Ephraim was a Syrian by birth. His father was of Nisibis, and his mother of Amid. And his father was priest in Nisibis of an idol named Abizal, which afterwards the victorious Emperor Jovian broke. He [or it, scil., the idol] was in the days of the victorious Emperor Constantine, true believer. But his father had this famous son, of whom is our narrative." The meaning may be that the idol was suffered to exist during Constantine's reign and after, till Jovian destroyed it:but it is now natural to understand it, as above, of Ephraim's father. The Vatican editor seems to have misunderstood his original, which the Parisian transcriber has preserved faithfully,-and to have altered it into accordance with his misunderstanding, by recasting the passage and substituting "was born" for "was."
52 Gregory Barhebr. (Chron. Eccles., II., 10) mentions, but doubtfully, a tradition that Ephraim wrote a letter circ. 334 in which he took the part of Papas, the Catholicus, against "the Bishops of the East" who accused him of neglect and misconduct. If this be accepted, it is additional evidence for the early date of Ephraim's birth.
53 This passage is mistranslated in the Latin version of the Encomium, by P. F. Linus of Verona (in his Divina S. Ephraem Opera, Dillingen, 1562), from whom it has been borrowed by Gerard Voss for his Latin version of Ephraim (Cologne. 1603), and by the editors of Gregory's Works.