Author: Sebastian P. Brock
Abstract: This article illustrates the dialogue, as a literary form, frequently encountered in Syriac literature of all periods, in prose and poetry, and covering a wide range of topics, notably philosophical, theological, monastic, and educational. Especially prominent among dialogues on theological matters that take as their starting point the biblical text are those in poetry. Ephrem in the fourth century, in his stanzaic poetry, and above all Jacob of Serugh around the turn of the fifth/sixth century, with his verse homilies, to name but the most prominent practitioners, often introduce direct speech involving dialogues between biblical characters. Liturgical poetry, in particular, is replete with brief (and probably fragmentary) examples of dialogues. Imagined dialogues, by no means always taking their starting point from actual dialogues to be found already in the biblical text, obviously provide ample scope for the phenomenon of ‘apocryphization’.
Keywords: Dialogue poems, transmission, catechetical role, Ephrem the Syrian, Jacob of Serugh, Narsai