Skip to comments.Oldest Illustrated Christian Manuscript in Ethiopia?
Posted on 07/05/2010 7:06:30 PM PDT by SeekAndFind
Exciting news from one of Christianity’s earliest seats, and the UK Daily Mail:
The world’s earliest illustrated Christian book has been saved by a British charity which located it at a remote Ethiopian monastery.
The incredible Garima Gospels are named after a monk who arrived in the African country in the fifth century and is said to have copied them out in just one day.
Beautifully illustrated, the colours are still vivid and thanks to the Ethiopian Heritage Fund have been conserved. The survival of the Gospels is incredible considering the country has been under Muslim invasion, Italian invasion and a fire in the 1930s destroyed the monastery’s church.
They were written on goat skin in the early Ethiopian language of Ge’ez.
There are two volumes which date from the same time, but the second is written in a different hand from the first. Both contain illustrations and the four Gospels. . . . Carbon dating, however, gives a date between 330 and 650 – which tantalisingly overlaps the date Abba Garima arrived in the country.
Ethiopians are old, old Christians; who have persevered in the face of threat and invasion. They are stoic, rather quiet but immovable, even though they are surrounded on all sides by inter-religious turmoil.
The Ethiopian Christians have long claimed to be the keepers of the Ark of the Covenant (a fascinating story), and we see an Ethiopian responding with great joy to the Word, in the Acts of the Apostles:
Then the angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, “Get up and head south on the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert route.”
So he got up and set out. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, 8 that is, the queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury, who had come to Jerusalem to worship,
and was returning home. Seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah.
The Spirit said to Philip, “Go and join up with that chariot.”
Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
He replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him.
This was the scripture passage he was reading: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
In (his) humiliation justice was denied him. Who will tell of his posterity? For his life is taken from the earth.”
Then the eunuch said to Philip in reply, “I beg you, about whom is the prophet saying this? About himself, or about someone else?”
Then Philip opened his mouth and, beginning with this scripture passage, he proclaimed Jesus to him.
As they traveled along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look, there is water. What is to prevent my being baptized?”
Then he ordered the chariot to stop, and Philip and the eunuch both went down into the water, and he baptized him.
When they came out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, but continued on his way rejoicing.
Cool stuff. Of all the Christian churches, the Ethiopian church may be the most mysteriously hopeful.
–Elizabeth Scalia is guestposting for the week, and this is cross-posted at The Anchoress
Nice post. “Cool stuff” I agree.
Illuminated manuscript ping for you!
Thanks! I spent this weekend reorganizing my studio so I can get back to work on some of my own :-)
They have a regular Ethiopian/Eritrean broadcasting time on a local cable station where you can see all three groups at religious worship, and all of them together, plus the Amharic speaking Eritreans dancing, singing, etc.
Yes, they are different from ~ yet very much the same as all other Christians.
A cool find here. Something I thought you might be interested in.
Wonderful post about our African brothers. Thanks.
So, within two hundred years Christianity had traveled all the way to Ethiopia and established to the such a degree as to produce a work of art like this. But then the early Church was always strong in Africa, especially North Africa. Agustine and, I believe, Tertullian were both from North Africa.
Very cool piece.
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When the great arguments about Christian doctrine between Constantinople and Alexandria were playing out at the time of the Council of Nicea, some of the loosers fled to Ethiopia. I was reading about the confusion of different versions of the Gospels recently. It was pointed out that they were copied many times and errors crept in. It was also said that if an Alexandrian version and a version from Constantinople were available, the Alexandrian was more likely to be correct, as their copyists were much better. Since many who fled persecution were from the Alexandria faction, perhaps their skill was transferred to Ethiopia.
......has been saved by a British charity.....
From what was it saved? Stolen is a more precisely accurate verb. Since it is 2000 years old, the manuscript is obviously revered and cared for.
Can’t wait to see your work!
Neither can I, lol...
**From what was it saved? Stolen is a more precisely accurate verb***
My thoughts exactly. I thought of the Sinaiaticus manuscript and how it was never returned as was promised when taken.
Christianity went (and sometimes fled) east as well; Christian bishops or whatnot were already in the Khan court in China when the Polos got there. A “heretical” monastery in what is now Iran preserved the classical learning that so entranced the Muzzies later on, and because of that monastery, classical Greek and Roman works wound up in Moslem-occupied Spain, to reenter Europe that way.
Given what has come out of the desert in the Chinese interior — much older than the Middle Ages — the future may yet reveal preserved documents of early Christian Asia. :’)
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