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An Amharic version of the origin of the Cross

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 December 2009

Extract

One of the major activities of the printing press established by the late Emperor Haile Selassie in the early 1920s was the printing of religious works in Geez which were provided with an accompanying Amharic translation in keeping with the then Regent's known desire that these religious texts be made accessible to the public. This tradition has been continued by the Tənsa'e zäGvba'e and Täsfa Gäbrä-sәllase presses of Addis Ababa, at least until they were nationalized in 1976. The latter press has devoted most of its output to reprinting religious works in Geez and Amharic in cheap editions intended for sale to the pious lay public. Works in Geez may or may not be provided with an accompanying Amharic translation. Sometimes the Geez original and the Amharic translation are published separately. Occasionally the Geez text appears without an Amharic translation, and very rarely the Amharic text (as is the case with the version appearing below) appears without the Geez original. This is undoubtedly owing to the fact that the original Geez text or the Amharic translation were not available to the publisher.

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Copyright
Copyright © School of Oriental and African Studies 1981

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References

1 This MS is similar to Amharic MS no. 3 conserved in the National Library according to Caquot, A. in his ‘La Reine de Saba et le bois de la Croix selon une tradition éthiopienne’, Annales d'Éthiopie, I, 1955, 144Google Scholar.

2 See Pankhurst, Richard, ‘The Maria Theresa dollar in pre-war Ethiopia’, Journal of Ethiopian Studies, I, 2, 1963, 826Google Scholar.

3 For an illustration of modern Gondarene usage, see the novel by Gubäňňa, Abbe, And lännatu (2nd ed.), Ababa, Addis, Bərhanənna Sälam Press, A.D. 1968Google Scholar. The author states that he was born and grew up in Ačäfär, a district of Gojjam adjoining the Gondar area.

4 See Budge, E. A. Wallis, The life and exploits of Alexander the Great, London, 1896Google Scholar.

5 Bezold, Carl, Kebra Nagast, die Herrlichkeit der Kōnige (Abh. der königlichen Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, philosophisch-philologische Klasse, Bd. 23/1), Munich, [1905], pp. xliii–lxGoogle Scholar. I am indebted to Professor Edward Ullendorff for advising me that the Arabie text translated byBudge, in his The Queen of Sheba and her only son Menyelek London, 1922, andGoogle ScholarAmérineau, M. E. in his Contes et romans de l'Égypte chrétienne, Paris, 1882Google Scholar, are undoubtedly the game as Bezold's Arabic text.

6 Pritchard, J. B. (ed.), Solomon and Sheba, London, 1974, 113Google Scholar

7 See Kane, T. L., Ethiopian literature in Amharic, Wiesbaden, 1975, 206–7Google Scholar.

8 A typical example of this is Mäzmur zä Dawit, Addis Ababa, Artistic Press, c. A.D. 1958Google Scholar.

9 See Cowley's, RogerPreliminary notes on the baläandә commentaries’, Journal of Ethiopian Studies, IX, 2, 1971, 920Google Scholar, and The beginnings of the andәm commentary tradition’, Journal of Ethiopian Studies X, 2, 1972, 116Google Scholar.

10 λιθόστρωτος The Dәrsanä-hәmamatihu wämotu läәgziәna wäläamlәkәnä wämädhәninä lyäsos Krәstos ‘Homily on the Passions and Death of Our Lord, our God and our Saviour Jesus Christ’ has ‘And he sat in a chair in a place known as Litosteros which they call “Gabbata” in Hebrew' (John 19: 13). This unpublished Geez MS contains no passages in common with the Hәmamatä-mäsqäl despite similarity of title and subject matter.

11 Wäyra (Olea africana). Its fruit, unlike that of the well-known olivo (Olea europea), is inedible.

12 This is clearly grafting, a practice unknown in Ethiopia before the late nineteenth century. This may be another clue to the Vorlage.

13 Psalms 3, lines 96–7, in the published Geez version which reads: ‘The vine is my remedy. Let some of what they seek be cut down and planted on Golgotha’. (The version used here is Mäzmur zä Dawit, Asmara, 1968, 287Google Scholar.)

14 Matthew 12:42. The exact quote reads:

15 An apparent reference to those practices for which the Sodomites are still notorious.

16 Genesis 19: 31–6.

17 A reference to the belief that before the coming of Christ, even those pagans who had lived a blameless life by Christian standards were not permitted to enter Paradise.

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