School of Edessa

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The School of Edessa (Syriac: ܐܣܟܘܠܐ ܕܐܘܪܗܝ), often mistaken to be one and the same as the School of Nisibis, was a theological school of great importance to the Syriac-speaking Assyrian world. It had been founded as long ago as the 2nd century by the kings of the Abgar dynasty. In 363, Nisibis fell to the Persians, causing St. Ephrem (Mar Aprim), accompanied by a number of teachers, to leave the School of Nisibis. They went to Edessa, where St. Ephrem took over the directorship of its school. When St. Ephrem took over the school, its importance grew still further. There were innumerable monasteries at Edessa housing many monks and offering many cells for their abode. St. Ephrem occupied a cell there, practicing the ascetic life, interpreting Holy Scripture, composing poetry and hymns and teaching in the school, as well as instructing young girls in church music.[1]

In 489, after the Nestorian Schism, the Byzantine emperor Zeno ordered the school summarily closed for its teachings of Nestorian doctrine, whereupon the scholars moved back to the School of Nisibis.[2]

Early history[edit]

The first recorded director of the School of Edessa was Qiiore, who in the early part of the fifth century exhibited not only ascetic and scholarly qualifications, but also administrative ability. Occupying the Chair of Exegesis (mepasqana in Syriac), he replaced the texts of St. Ephraim with those of Theodore of Mopsuestia. This was a seminal decision. By selecting Theodore's writings as his pre-eminent textual source, Qiiore embarked upon a course of study that was to intermingle the deductive principles of Aristotle with Theodore's Dyophysite creed.[2]

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