Ethiopic Versions


International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


Christianity was introduced into Abyssinia by Tyrian missionaries, who probably spoke Greek, about the time of Constantine the Great. The Bible was translated into Ethiopic, or, to use the native name, Ge`ez, the Old Testament being from the Septuagint, between the 4th and 5th centuries, by various hands, though the work was popularly ascribed to Frumentius, the first bishop. The fact of the Scriptures having been translated into Ethiopic was known to Chrysostom (Hom. II, in Joannem). The versions thus made were revised some time about the 14th century, and corrected by means of the Massoretic Text. The Ethiopic Scriptures contain the books found in the Alexandrine recension with the exception of the Books of Macc; but their importance lies in their pseudepigraphic writings, the Asc Isa, the Book of Enoch and the Book of Jubilees. The 1st edition of the New Testament appeared at Rome in 1545-49 (reprinted in Walton), but a critical edition has yet to be made; one issued by the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1830 contains many errors. The Old Testament canonical books and Apocrypha have been edited by Dillmann (the Octoteuch and 1-4 Kings and Apocrypha), Bachmann (died 1894) (Isa, Lam, Ob and Mal), and Ludolph (Pss). The Psalter has been often printed from 1513 on. The Book of Enoch was first translated by Richard Laurence and published at Oxford in 1821, but the standard editions are those of Dillmann (Leipzig, 1853) and R. H. Charles (Oxford, 1893). The importance of this work lies in the fact that "the influence of Enoch on the New Testament has been greater than that of all the other apocryphal and pseudepigraphal books taken together" (Charles, 41). Not only the phraseology and ideas, but the doctrines of the New Testament are greatly influenced by it. Of the canonical books and Apocrypha the manuscripts are too poor and too late to be of any value for the criticism of the Greek text.