Aba (ca. 400)

Disciple of Ephrem, author, and biblical commentator. The ‘Testament of Ephrem’ mentions Aba as the first of Ephrem’s seven disciples. He must, therefore, be the same person as ‘Mar Aba, the disciple of Ephrem’ to whom several fragments are attributed in ms. London, Brit. Libr. Add. 17,194, a 9th-cent. W.-Syr. collection of extracts from exegetical and theological works. These fragments, published by Nau, are taken from a Commentary on the Gospel (3 fragments), a Psalm Commentary (one fragment), and a memrā on Job the (OT) athlete (one fragment). To these meager remains some new texts may perhaps be added.

Aba is explicitly quoted in a work on the Holy Chrism by Anṭun of Tagrit, which exists in ms. London, Brit. Libr. Add. 14,726 (f. 72r–85r) and remains unpublished.

In 1975, Beck published a long extract (240 lines of 7 syllables each) from a poem attributed to ‘Mar Aba, the disciple of the holy Mar Ephrem’ from ms. Sin. Syr. 67 (9th cent.). It deals with God’s immeasurable power and mercy.

In 1980, Reinink drew attention to forty fragments preserved in the Gannat Bussāme and quoted under Ephrem’s name. While other fragments bearing Ephrem’s name in the same work can be located in Ephrem’s Commentary on the Diatessaron, these forty fragments do not belong to that work. Similarities with the previously identified Aba fragments suggest Aba’s authorship. These unpublished fragments show the author’s familiarity with the Diatessaron, even though he also knew the four separate Gospels.

More recently, among the Dayr al-Suryān mss. a long ascetic text has come to light under the title ‘Memrā on faith’ (haymānutā). In two marginal notes the work is identified as ‘Book of the mind’ (Ktābā d-reʿyānā) and is explicitly attributed to ‘Mar Aba, the disciple of Mar Ephrem’. Possible connections come to mind with a Ktābā d-reʿyāne (plur.), translated by W.  Wright as ‘Book of sentences’, which is attributed to Ephrem and extracts of which exist in ms. London, Brit. Libr. Add. 12,167, f. 293v. It cannot be ruled out that we are dealing here with an example of the entanglement between the literary heritage of the master and the disciple. If that is the case, future research hopefully will be able to delineate the disciple’s contribution and to bring him out of his master’s shadow.


  • E.  Beck, Nachträge zu Ephraem Syrus (CSCO 363–64; 1975), 72–6 (Syr.), 98–104 (GT).
  • S. P. Brock and L. Van Rompay, ‘The Syriac manuscripts of Deir al-Surian: some first impressions’, Newsletter of the Levantine Foundation 1 (2006), 3–4.
  • F.  Nau, ‘Fragments de Mar Aba, disciple de Saint Ephrem’, ROC 7.17 (1912), 69–73.
  • G.  J.  Reinink, ‘Neue Fragmente zum Diatessaronkommentar des Ephraemschülers Aba’, OLP 11 (1980), 117–33.

| Aba |


Front Matter A (73) B (53) C (26) D (36) E (27) F (5) G (30) H (22) I (31) J (15) K (11) L (12) M (56) N (19) O (3) P (28) Q (11) R (8) S (71) T (39) U (1) V (5) W (3) X (1) Y (41) Z (4) Back Matter
URI   TEI/XML   Purchase  

Resources related to 3 other topics in this article.

Show Other Resources