Evolution of an Eschaton: An Analysis of On the Antichrist (CPG 3946) Attributed to Efrem the Syrian
On the Antichrist (CPG 3946) is an eschatological sermon historically attributed to Efrem the Syrian. Composed in Koine Greek, On the Antichrist is not an authentic Efremic sermon but is attributed to the construct Greek Efrem, often called in the literature ‘Ephraem Graecus’. Sometime around the 12th century, Slavic Christians translated the work into Old Church Slavonic.
As its goal, this study employs On the Antichrist to investigate how religions (e.g. Christianity) employ religio-cultural constructs and either refine, or redefine, them for new audiences and circumstances. To accomplish this, the author transcribes and translates one of the most important manuscript witnesses of this sermon (labelled Ov1), translates it, compares it with other early witnesses, and analyzes the differences between the Greek and OCS versions of the text in order to ascertain the variations in the versions and to posit why such variations might have arisen in the transmission of this sermon. Finally, the critical edition is interrogated to propose a date of the autographic text-form of On the Antichrist to the 6th to 8th centuries.
This dissertation finds that multiple recensions of the sermon evolved from the earliest recension, the A Recension. The Old Church Slavonic recension of On the Antichrist falls squarely within the A Recension and seems to share a common ancestral tradition with the other A Recension manuscripts and help to reconstruct the early history of On the Antichrist. Thus, this dissertation provides one necessary step in preparation for the difficult task of preparing a critical edition of this sermon.
The sermon draws heavily upon 2 Thessalonians 2 and the Little Apocalypse. Two manuscripts overtly indicate multiple meters for the sermon, but two others only hint at such divisions, and the nature of the meters (Aramaic or Byzantine) is uncertain. The sermon itself references no datable historical events. The Greek of the sermon analyzing to a Late Koine/Early Byzantine cusp language datable to between the 6th to 8th centuries. For all the uncertainties and puzzles this sermon presents, the evidence clearly points to at least one conclusion: Efrem the Syrian (d.373) cannot have authored this work, and there is no way currently to ascertain the author.
Finally, this dissertation adduces an argument that Byzantine and Slavic Christians preserved On the Antichrist because of its emphasis upon humility and penitence, which allowed for the sermon to be incorporated into Orthodox liturgy by the 10th century.