MARGINALIA REVIEW OF BOOKS: Discoveries in the Ethiopian Desert: Exploring the Ancient Gospels of Ethiopia
It’s not every day that scholars discover new Bible manuscripts from the ancient world. It’s even rarer to discover ones endowed with luxurious painted images. Yet this is precisely what has happened over the past decade thanks to groundbreaking research into three ancient codices from Ethiopia, the earliest surviving copies of the Gospels in Ethiopic.
The manuscripts, which were produced and are still housed at the Monastery of Abba Garima in Ethiopia’s northern highlands, were not completely unknown to experts before, having been published for the first time in the 1960s. But recent work by Judith McKenzie and Francis Watson—published in a spectacular new book—has led to a radical reassessment of their dates and significance. Through radio-carbon testing and fresh analysis of their iconography and texts, we now know that the three Abba Garima Gospels were copied not in the tenth or eleventh centuries, as once thought, but between the fifth and seventh centuries at the zenith of Ethiopia’s ancient Christian civilization. For anyone interested in the history of the Bible, late antiquity, or Ethiopia itself, this is very big news.
The book under review is:
Judith S. McKenzie and Francis Watson. The Garima Gospels: Early Illuminated Gospel Books from Ethiopia. Oxford: Manar al-Athar, 2016. ISBN: 978-0-9954946-0-2. £49.95
For past PaleoJudaica on the Garima Gospels, see here
, and here
. For some past posts on ancient Ethiopic (Ge'ez), see here
and links. And for past posts on the ancient Ethiopian Kingdom of Axum (Aksum) see the posts collected here
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