What Is the Ethiopian Bible?


The majority of Ethiopian Christians belong to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. The church was established in the fourth century and is closely linked to the Egyptian Coptic Church, although it remains independent from it. The Bible--both Old and New testaments--used by the Ethiopian church contains the books that Western Christians are familiar with, but it also contains a number of less well-known scriptural writings, making the Ethiopian Bible considerably longer at 81 books.

Greek Origins

  • The Ethiopic version of the Old and New testaments originates in the version known as the Septuagint. This term refers to the earliest Greek translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew. It's derived from the Latin "septuaginta," which is the number 70. According to legend, there were 72 translators -- six from each of the 12 tribes of Israel that worked on creating the Bible in Greek. The story also claims that these translators worked separately without communicating, yet their versions turned out identical in terms of style. Biblical scholars, however, point out that there are significant stylistic differences in early and later books of the Old Testament.

The Ethiopian Canon

  • The Ethiopian biblical canon is broader than that of any other Christian church. It is divided into the "narrow" canon and the "broader" canon. The narrow canon contains the Old and New testament books that western Christians are familiar with. The Ethiopian Orthodox church prides itself on preserving texts that may otherwise have been lost, such as the Book of Jubilees.

Books of the Old Testament

  • A number of books in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church's Old Testament are what scholars call "pseudo epigraphic." This refers to books written by authors who conceal their true identity. For example, the book of Enoch is included in the Ethiopic biblical canon but excluded from Western bibles because it is thought to be pseudo epigraphic. Other texts only found in the Ethiopian Bible are Baruch and Esdra.

The Extended New Testament

  • The standard New Testament contains 27 books and stops at Revelations. The Ethiopian bible contains eight more books. The Orthodox Christian Information Center explains that when the church began--before the split between the orthodox churches and the church in Rome--there was a period of 20 years when there were no New Testament books, only oral teachings. As books were published, some were accepted in specific regions, while others had universal acceptance. The 27 books of the standard New Testament represent the universally accepted works. Texts such as the Book of Clement and the Didascalia weren't accepted universally but are preserved in the Ethiopian bible.


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