Ephrem the Syrian, On Penitence, p. 37. 2-7.

Full Title: 
Περὶ μετανοίας, De paenitentia
Text - Hyperlink: 

Ἄκουσον! Περὶ φαρμακείας μετανοεῖς; Πᾶν ἴχνος αὐτῆς ἐξόρισον. Μὴ ἀφεὶς τὰ φανερὰ ἐν τοῖς κρυπτοῖς πολιτεύῃ. Ἀφῆκας τὸ ἀνελεῖν ἀνθρώπους; Καὶ τῆς γλώττης κράτει· μὴ συκοφαντεῖν, μὴ λοιδορεῖν, μὴ ἐπιπλέκειν. Περὶ εἰδωλολατρίας μετανοεῖς; Φεῦγε κληδόνας, οἰωνισμούς, παρατηρήματα· μέρη ταῦτα εἰδωλολατρίας εἰσίν· ὅτι καὶ ἐν τούτοις συμβολικοῖς μαντεύονται, ἀστρολογοῦσι, προσέχουσι μαθηματικοῖς τερατοσκόποις.

4th c.
Summary - Description: 
In this passage the polemic against astrology takes the form of a passing attack in a text devoted to other topic (to penitence). Astrology, related to magical practices (filters, augury and observations / interpretations of omens), is considered as an obstacle to spiritual conversion or as a kind of idol worship. According to G. Florovsky, Ephrem’s anthropology focuses on the human freedom considered as the base for responsibility directing Man’s course towards God. Human free will is the motive force that can exceed Necessity and Nature liberating Man from the impact of the stars and of physical limitations. Astrology, equivalent to fate, is opposed to early Christian views of divine Providence and human free will. The polemic against astrology may also be explained in the light of the precise historical context of the time. The Gnostic sect of the Bardaisanites, active in Edessa, was maybe the target of Ephrem the Syrian on this point. Following Bardaisan (2nd c., Syriac or Parthian scientist, scholar, astrologer, philosopher and poet), his disciples aimed to create a synthesis of Christian and occult beliefs attributing to astrology a crucial role. By this brief rejection of astrology, Ephrem connects the spiritual exhortation with his anti-heretical strategy.
Type of Source: 

G. Florovsky, Oι Ανατολικοί Πατέρες του τετάρτου αιώνα [The Eastern Fathers of the fourth century], transl. P. K. Pallis, Thessaloniki 1991 432.

T. Hegedus, Early Christianity and Ancient Astrology [Patristic Studies 6], New York 2007.

Bibliographical Sources: 

K. G. Phrantzoles, Ὁσίου Ἐφραίμ τοῦ Σύρου ἔργα [Works of Ephrem the Syrian], vol. 5, Thessaloniki 1994 p. 37. 2-7.