Archive for the ‘Ethiopia’ Tag

Ethio-Hebrew Psalms (BL Add. 19342)   2 comments

While looking lately at the records for some Judeo-Persian manuscripts in Margoliouth’s Catalogue of the Hebrew and Samaritan Manuscripts in the British Museum, I stumbled across the record for BL Add. 19342 (№ 158 in the catalog, p. 119), a manuscript with parts of the Psalter in Hebrew, but written in Gǝʿǝz script (Fidäl), something we can call Ethio-Hebrew on the pattern of the descriptors Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Persian, etc. (We could also call Garšūnī Syro-Arabic, but custom has deemed otherwise.) Until this, I had never encountered this particular phenomenon, but as Margoliouth notes, Wright had previously described the manuscript as part of the Ethiopic collection (№ 127, p. 81). It so happens that this manuscript is among the many already made available through the British Library’s digitization project: see here. Following Wright, Margoliouth dates the manuscript to the 18th century. It contains Pss 1-11:4, 51, 121, 123, 130, 140. Unlike most Ethiopic manuscripts, this one is on paper, not parchment.

The beginning of Ps 1 is in both catalogs mentioned above, but we can now look at the manuscript itself, and in its entirety, thanks to the BL’s having made the images freely accessible. Here are some examples (Heb text below from BHS):

Ps 1:3

וְֽהָיָ֗ה כְּעֵץ֮ שָׁת֪וּל עַֽל־פַּלְגֵ֫י מָ֥יִם אֲשֶׁ֤ר פִּרְיֹ֨ו׀ יִתֵּ֬ן בְּעִתֹּ֗ו וְעָלֵ֥הוּ לֹֽא־יִבֹּ֑ול וְכֹ֖ל אֲשֶׁר־יַעֲשֶׂ֣ה יַצְלִֽיחַ׃

Ps 1:3 in Ethio-Hebrew, BL Add. 19432, f. 1r. Source.

Ps 1:3 in Ethio-Hebrew, BL Add. 19432, f. 1r. Source.

Ps 2:1-2

לָ֭מָּה רָגְשׁ֣וּ גֹויִ֑ם וּ֝לְאֻמִּ֗ים יֶהְגּוּ־רִֽיק׃ יִ֥תְיַצְּב֨וּ׀ מַלְכֵי־אֶ֗רֶץ וְרֹוזְנִ֥ים נֹֽוסְדוּ־יָ֑חַד עַל־יְ֝הוָה וְעַל־מְשִׁיחֹֽו׃

Ps 2:1-2 in Ethio-Hebrew, BL Add. 19432, f. 1v. Source.

Ps 2:1-2 in Ethio-Hebrew, BL Add. 19432, f. 1v. Source.

Ps 121

שִׁ֗יר לַֽמַּ֫עֲלֹ֥ות אֶשָּׂ֣א עֵ֭ינַי אֶל־הֶהָרִ֑ים מֵ֝אַ֗יִן יָבֹ֥א עֶזְרִֽי׃
עֶ֭זְרִי מֵעִ֣ם יְהוָ֑ה עֹ֝שֵׂ֗ה שָׁמַ֥יִם וָאָֽרֶץ׃
אַל־יִתֵּ֣ן לַמֹּ֣וט רַגְלֶ֑ךָ אַל־יָ֝נ֗וּם שֹֽׁמְרֶֽךָ׃
הִנֵּ֣ה לֹֽא־יָ֭נוּם וְלֹ֣א יִישָׁ֑ן שֹׁ֝ומֵ֗ר יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃
יְהוָ֥ה שֹׁמְרֶ֑ךָ יְהוָ֥ה צִ֝לְּךָ֗ עַל־יַ֥ד יְמִינֶֽךָ׃
יֹומָ֗ם הַשֶּׁ֥מֶשׁ לֹֽא־יַכֶּ֗כָּה וְיָרֵ֥חַ בַּלָּֽיְלָה׃
יְֽהוָ֗ה יִשְׁמָרְךָ֥ מִכָּל־רָ֑ע יִ֝שְׁמֹ֗ר אֶת־נַפְשֶֽׁךָ׃
יְֽהוָ֗ה יִשְׁמָר־צֵאתְךָ֥ וּבֹואֶ֑ךָ מֵֽ֝עַתָּ֗ה וְעַד־עֹולָֽם׃

Ps 121 in Ethio-Hebrew, BL Add. 19432, f. 9r. Source.

Ps 121 in Ethio-Hebrew, BL Add. 19432, f. 9r. Source.

More could be certainly be said, but here are a few scattered observations:

  • The Hebrew h marking final or -e is written (e.g. ሀያህ, ያዓሢህ [ሤ?]).
  • Hebrew is spelled with Gǝʿǝz ፀ (e.g. ክዔፅ, ኤሬፅ) or ጸ (e.g. ይትያጽቡ).
  • Hebrew š is generally spelled with Gǝʿǝz ሠ (e.g. ሣቱል, አሤር, ሦምሬካ), as is Hebrew ś (ያዓሢህ [ሤ?]). In at least one place (Ps 121:6), though, the Ethiopic letter ሸ (not used in Gǝʿǝz, but used in other Ethiosemitic languages) is fittingly used for š: ሀሸሜስ häšämes, but note that the last consonant here, which should also be š, is here a simple s (not ś as usual elsewhere in the manuscript), so that we end up with a form like Arabic šams.
  • Spirantized Hebrew k is spelled with Gǝʿǝz ኀ (e.g. ውኁል, also note the vowel, wǝxul). Spirantization in the other BGDKPT letters is not marked (e.g. ያቦእ).
  • The Hebrew in yārēaḥ is written with Gǝʿǝz ሀ (ውያሬሀ).
  • The Hebrew impf prefix yi- is spelled with Gǝʿǝz yǝ- (e.g. ይቴን, ይቦል). The prefix ye- is spelled with Gǝʿǝz yä- (የሄጉ; note the incorrect vowel on the h).
  • The tetragrammaton is written ይሁዋህ yǝhuwah.
  • The Gǝʿǝz vowel i often appears where we expect e. The latter vowel is used for Heb segol (e.g. ኤሬፅ, ኤል, ኤት); for the pausal form ā́reṣ we have አሬፅ.
  • An Ethiopism is ሚኵል for Heb mikkol.
  • There are some mistakes, such as ወዓላሁ for וְעָלֵ֥הוּ. The first two words of Ps 2 are missing.

Ethiopian mss online from Frankfurt   Leave a comment

My colleague, Ted Erho, has informed me of twenty-one Ethiopian manuscripts (or related to Ethiopia, at least) in Frankfurt that have been digitized and made available: Basic information about each item is in the main list, and on the page for each item, click on “Ausführliche Beschreibung” for the appropriate page(s) from the printed catalog. The manuscripts are readable online or downloadable as PDFs. Included are books mostly copied in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, even a couple written by the greatest early European éthiopisant, Hiob Ludolf (1624-1704). Hearty thanks to those in Frankfurt who made these items available: they are another reminder of how grateful we can be to have so many manuscripts at our fingertips nowadays, no matter where we are on the planet! So let’s get to work reading them!

More saints and friendly animals   Leave a comment

Some months ago I shared some excerpts from the Armenian synaxarion, including parts from the story of Mammas, with whom animals are said to have acted quite tamely. From my recent reading in the Gǝʕǝz synaxarion, here are some passages from two more saints’ stories, one an autochthonous Ethiopian saint, the other Greek, both commemorated on Taḫśaś 12, that illustrate the interaction of saints and animals. The first saint is Samuʔel of Waldǝbba, of the 14th/15th century (BHO 1039; see D. Nosnitsin in Enc. Aeth. IV 516-518), and the second is Anicetus (and companions, BHG 1542-1544), whose martyrdom is set during the persecution of Diocletian. The first text is available in PO 15: 737-741, from which I give two sections, along with my English translation:

§ 5 ወእምህየ ፡ ሖረ ፡ ገዳመ ፡ ወነበረ ፡ ፵መዓልተ ፡ ወ፵ሌሊተ ፡ እንዘ ፡ ኢይጥዕም ፡ ምንተኒ ፡ ወይመጽኡ ፡ ኀቤሁ ፡ አናብስት ፡ ወአናምርት ፡ ወኵሉ ፡ አራዊት ፡ ግሩማን ፡ ይሰግዱ ፡ ሎቱ ፡ ወይልሕሱ ፡ ፀበለ ፡ እገሪሁ ።

§ 9 ወአናብስትሰ ፡ ይትረአዩ ፡ ውስተ ፡ በዓቱ ፡ ከመ ፡ አባግዕ ፡ ቦ ፡ አመ ፡ ይሰፍር ፡ አካሎሙ ፡ ወቦ ፡ አመ ፡ ይበጥሕ ፡ ቍስሎሙ ፡ ወያወፅእ ፡ እምኔሆሙ ፡ ሦከ ።

§ 5 From there he went to the desert and stayed for forty days and forty nights, eating nothing. Lions, leopards, and dreadful beasts were coming to him, bowing down to him and licking the dust of his feet.

§ 9 Lions would appear in his cave like sheep: sometimes he would measure their body, sometimes he would make an incision in their wound and extract the thorn.

The Anicetus story is available in PO 15: 742-746, and here is the relevant section:

§ 2 ወዝንቱሰ ፡ አንቂጦስ ፡ ሰማዕት ፡ ሶበ ፡ ርእየ ፡ መዓብልተ ፡ ኵነኔ ፡ ዘአግበሮሙ ፡ ንጉሥ ፡ ቅድሜሁ ፡ ያፍርሆሙ ፡ ለምእመናን ፡ ተንሥአ ፡ ቅዱስ ፡ እማእከሎሙ ፡ በጥቡዕ ፡ ልብ ፡ ወተዛለፎ ፡ ለንጉሥ ። ወሰሚዖ ፡ ንጉሥ ፡ ዲዮቅልትያኖስ ፡ አዘዘ ፡ ይእስርዎ ፡ ወያዕርግዎ ፡ ውስተ ፡ ቲያጥሮን ፡ ወይስድዱ ፡ ላዕሌሁ ፡ አንበሳ ፡ ጸዋገ ። ወበጺሖ ፡ አንበሳ ፡ ኀቤሁ ፡ ሰፍሐ ፡ የማናየ ፡ እዴሁ ፡ ወመዝመዘ ፡ ገጾ ፡ ወመላትሒሁ ፡ ለቅዱስ ፡ አንቂጦስ ።

§ 2 Now this Saint Anicetus, the martyr, when he saw the instruments of torture which the emperor had had brought before him to frighten the faithful, he stood up among them with a steadfast heart and rebuked the emperor. Emperor Diocletian having heard this, he commanded [the soldiers] to bind him and lead him up to the theater and to set a fierce lion upon him, but when the lion had reached him, it stretched out its right paw and rubbed Anicetus’ face and cheeks.

Across all the traditions of hagiography there are many more stories of the tameness of animals effected and made manifest in the presence of a saint. Some of the types are likewise known outside of hagiographic literature, such as that of removing a thorn from a lion’s paw (Androcles). Hagiographic tales that show an overturning of the expected fierceness of beasts also take their cue from the story of Daniel and the lions’ den (Daniel 6), and perhaps also from the look to a time of the lack of raving violence among animals and of no more enmity between people and animals (Isaiah 11:6-8). At least some of these have been studied in isolated languages (esp. Latin hagiography), but the phenomenon deserves a cross-lingual presentation and investigation.

Lake Tana manuscripts and EMML (guest post)   Leave a comment

A guest post by Ted Erho, Research Fellow in Ethiopian Manuscript Studies at HMML.

One of the lesser known facts in EMML history is that the project microfilmed nearly 500 manuscripts from libraries of the important churches and monasteries of Lake Tana during the 1980s.  This is due in part to the fact that copies of these microfilms were never sent to HMML, largely on account of the prevailing geopolitical conditions of that era.  However, in 2005, HMML was able to visit the National Archives and Library of Ethiopia and scan a number of the EMML negatives missing from our collections.  While technical problems and the increasingly deteriorating state of the films unfortunately prevented the majority of the Lake Tana items from being scanned at that time, a handful are now available at HMML.  The available scans vary greatly in quality.

More recently, HMML has obtained a complete set of scans of the microfilming project of Ernst Hammerschmidt at Lake Tana in the late 1960s.  Like the EMML scans, Hammerschmidt’s films vary in quality, often on account of poor image sizing, focusing, and lighting.  However, in cases where the two overlap, i.e. the same manuscript has been microfilmed twice, it is often possible to create a most legible copy through a combination of the copies.

Below is a list of the available overlapping items:

Kebran Gabriel (x6)
Tana/Kebran 2 = EMML 7603 (mf)
Tana/Kebran 8 = EMML 8594
Tana/Kebran 11 = EMML 8598
Tana/Kebran 16 = EMML 7605 (mf)
Tana/Kebran 37 = EMML 7596 (mf)
Tana/Kebran 48 = EMML 8612

The three microfilms (EMML 7596, 7603, and 7605) are of far superior quality to Hammerschmidt’s copies.  HMML also possesses copies of the following mss from Kebran Gabriel which were not microfilmed by Hammerschmidt: EMML 8595, 8596, 8625, 8626, 8627, 8679, and 8683.

A total of 124 mss from the monastery of Kebran Gabriel are recorded as having been microfilmed by the EMML project: EMML 7596, 7603, 7605, 8262-8346, 8594-96, 8598, 8600, 8603, 8606-07, 8612, 8614-15, 8625-27, 8632, 8634-35, 8644, 8646-48, 8651, 8658, 8663, 8668, 8670-71, 8674-79, 8683, 8687, and 8689.  These include (as with Dabra Maryam and Daga Estifanos below) further known duplicates, such as Tana/Kebran 4 = EMML 8274, Tana/Kebran 9 = EMML 8292, and Tana/Kebran 21 = EMML 8307.

Dabra Maryam (x5)
Tana 62/Dabra Maryam 4 = EMML 8613
Tana 66/Dabra Maryam 8 = EMML 8623
Tana 72/Dabra Maryam 14 = EMML 8621
Tana 73/Dabra Maryam 15 = EMML 8610
Tana 77/Dabra Maryam 19 = EMML 8597

Six further manuscripts were microfilmed by the EMML project at this monastery: EMML 8631, 8636, 8640, 8645, 8657, and 8659.

EMML 8753, ff. 31v-32r

EMML 8753, ff. 31v-32r

Daga Estifanos (x6)
Tana 115/Daga Estifanos 4 = EMML 8734
Tana 144/Daga Estifanos 33 = EMML 8754
Tana 151/Daga Estifanos 40 = EMML 8748
Tana 156/Daga Estifanos 45 = EMML 8755
Tana 175/Daga Estifanos 64 = EMML 8753
Tana 177/Daga Estifanos 66 = EMML 8744

Thirty further items from the significant holdings found at Daga Estifanos are found as EMML 8352, 8354, 8364, 8367-70, 8372, 8377-78, 8382, 8384, 8392, 8394, 8397, 8399-8400, 8402, 8404, 8411-14, 8416, 8420, 8425, 8694-95, 8709, and 8719.

The Tana 177/Daga Estifanos 66/EMML 8744 manuscript serves to illustrate the importance of manuscript microfilming and digitization projects both in the past (such as EMML) and the present in Ethiopia.  At the time that Hammerschmidt microfilmed this item in the late 1960s, it contained 112 ff., with the final portion of the text (ff. 97-112) containing the then unique, and nearly complete, gadl of St. Yasay, the orthodox king of Rome.  (A second, complete copy of this text is now known from EMML 7602 ff. 74r-82r.)  However, when the EMML project encountered it, on 15 May 1987, the manuscript contained only 72 ff., indicating the probable loss of the Daga copy of this rare text in the intervening years.

The Transfiguration in Gǝʿǝz: Three sälam verses from the Synaxarion   Leave a comment

Today (Aug 19) some churches celebrate the Transfiguration, and there are readings for the feast in published synaxaria in Arabic, Armenian, and Gǝʿǝz. A close reading and comparison of the language of these texts would be worthwhile, but now I’d like only to share part of the Gǝʿǝz reading, namely the three sälam verses that close the commemoration of the Transfiguration. (On the genre of the sälam, see this post.) Most typically, there is only one five-line verse in the Gǝʿǝz synaxarion at the end of the commemoration of a saint or holy event, but for this important feast there are three together, the verses ending, respectively, with the syllabic rhymes -ʿa/ʾa, -wä, -se. As usual, verses like this provide a good learning opportunity for students interested in Gǝʿǝz, both in terms of lexicon and grammar, the latter especially thanks to the freer arrangement of the sentence’s constituents that obtains in this kind of writing.

I give Guidi and Grébaut’s text from PO 9: 513-514, together with a new, rough English translation.




Greetings to Tabor, which is named and called
The fertile mountain and the firm mountain!
There Barak conquered, and the might of Sisera was conquered.
And having ascended [that mountain], when Jesus had become man,
He revealed the hidden mystery of his second coming.

Greetings to your ascent up the slope of Mount Tabor in tranquility!
Having taken the men you had chosen from among many,
Jesus, you who were incarnate from the house of Judah,
The appearance of your face shined like lightning,
And your clothes were as white as snow.

The Father proclaimed you in praise,
And the Spirit of holiness concealed your head.
When you had made an assembly of apostles,
Where Elijah was present and where Moses was,
You, Son, showed the trinity of your divinity.


[1] The two prepositions in this line behave more like adverbs than prepositions, given that a relative pronoun pointing back to ክናሴ፡ in the previous line is omitted: “assembly at [which] Elijah was present and with [which] Moses was.” Cf. Dillmann, Gr., § 201.

EMML @ 40   1 comment

Today and tomorrow at HMML there will be a small conference to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the EMML project. Here is the program:

EMML @ 40: The Life and Legacy of the Ethiopian Manuscript Microfilm Library
Hill Museum & Manuscript Library, Saint John’s University

Thursday, July 25
Fr. Columba Stewart, OSB, Hill Museum & Manuscript Library
EMML: A Brief History and a Look Ahead

Getatchew Haile, Hill Museum & Manuscript Library
A Fragment of the Aksumite Period of a Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew

Claire Bosc-Tiessé and Marie-Laure Derat, Centre national de la recherche scientifique
Towards an Archaeology of Manuscript Libraries around Lalibela (Begwena – Lasta, 12th – 21st cent.): Inventories of Books, History of Texts and Differential Preservation of Manuscripts

Adam C. McCollum, Hill Museum & Manuscript Library
A Mass of Texts: The Witness of the EMML Project to Hagiographic Material in Gǝʿǝz

Amsalu Tefera, Addis Ababa University
Gädlä Sarabamon: The Case of the Ethiopic Version

Sophia Dege, Ethio-SPARE, Universität Hamburg
The Aksimaros among EMML Manuscripts

Concluding discussion

Friday, July 26
Curt Niccum, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, Texas
What has Athens to do with Addis Alem? Greek Biblical Scholarship’s Renewed Interest in Ethiopic

Ted Erho, Hill Museum & Manuscript Library and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Demographic Trends in the Manuscript Tradition of Ethiopic Enoch

Concluding discussion

Sälam to Mary Magdalene   1 comment

Today (July 22) in some churches the feast of Mary Magdalene is celebrated. How about a few lines on her from the Ethiopian synaxarion, where she is commemorated on the 28th of Ḥamle (Aug 4)? These lines belong to the genre of the sälam (greeting; usually called ʿarke when outside of the synaxarion), five rhyming lines — e.g. the lines below all end in -ma — that typically conclude a saint’s mention in the Ethiopian synaxarion. The synaxarion in Gǝʿǝz goes back to the Arabic synaxarion for the Coptic church compiled by Michael of Atrīb and Malīg in the 13th century. The earliest Gǝʿǝz recension, from the end of the 14th century, survives in only three manuscripts, one of which being EMML 6458, for the first half of the year; another early, but distinct, witness is EMML 6952. In the sixteenth century, following a notable rise of interest in local hagiography, the synaxarion was revised, first, it seems, at Däbrä Ḥayq Ǝsṭifanos, but with a rival recension also from Däbrä Libanos. It is this sixteenth century revision, known as the Vulgate recension, that has the sälam verses. This corpus, a unique contribution of Gǝʿǝz hagiography, offers students of hagiography and students of the Gǝʿǝz language a long list of reading material sure to hold their attention. Here is the one for Mary Magdalene, the text in PO 7 435, and my translation.


Greetings to the Magdalene, Mary by name,
Who saw Christ’s resurrection first among the apostles.
Greetings to the women who shared in her toil
As they ran together to the tomb of the Wise Craftsman
Without the terror of the night frightening them.

Bibliography (further bibliography in each of these articles)

Aßfalg, Julius. “Synaxar(ion).” In H. Kaufhold, ed., Kleines Lexikon des christlichen Orients. 2d ed. Wiesbaden, 2007. Pp. 448-449.

Colin, Gérard and Alessandro Bausi. “Sǝnkǝssar.” Encyclopaedia Aethiopica IV 621-623.

Nosnitsin, Denis. “Sälam.” Encyclopaedia Aethiopica IV 484.

Yalew, Samuel. “ʿArke.” Encyclopaedia Aethiopica I 342.

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