World’s first illustrated Christian bible discovered at Ethiopian monastery
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.
Abba Garima arrived from Constantinople in 494 AD and legend has it that he was able to copy the gospels in a day because God delayed the sun from setting.
The incredible relic has been kept ever since in the Garima Monastery near Adwa in the north of the country, which is in the Tigray region at 7,000 feet.
Experts believe it is also the earliest example of book binding still attached to the original pages.
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.
Though the texts had been mentioned by the occasional traveller since the 1950s, it had been thought they dated from the 11th century at the earliest.
Carbon dating, however, gives a date between 330 and 650 – which tantalisingly overlaps the date Abba Garima arrived in the country.
So the first volume could be in his hand – even if he didn’t complete the task in a day as the oral tradition states.
The charity Ethiopian Heritage Fund that was set up to help preserve the treasures in the country has made the stunning discovery.
It was also allowed incredibly rare access to the texts so experts could conserve them on site.
The incredible relic has been kept ever since in the Garima Monastery near Adwa in the north of Ethiopia
It is now hoped the Gospels will be put in a museum at the monastery where visitors will be able to view them.
Blair Priday from the Ethiopian Heritage Fund said: ‘Ethiopia has been overlooked as a source of these fantastic things.
‘Many of these old Christian relics can only be reached by hiking and climbing to remote monasteries as roads are limited in these mountainous regions.
‘All the work on the texts was done in situ and everything is reversible, so if in future they can be taken away for further conservation we won’t have hindered that.
‘The pages had been crudely stitched together in a restoration in the 1960s and some of the pages wouldn’t even turn. And they were falling to pieces.
‘The Garima Gospels have been kept high and dry which has helped preserve them all these years and they are kept in the dark so the colours look fresh.
‘This was the most astounding of all our projects and the Patriarch, the head of the Ethiopian Church, had to give his permission.
‘Most of the experts did the work for nothing.
‘We are currently undertaking other restoration programmes on wall paintings and religious texts.
‘We believe that preserving Ethiopia’s cultural heritage will help to increase visitor revenue and understanding of the extraordinary history of this country.
Garima Gospels – Wikipedia
YES THIS IS FACT WHICH DO NOT BE HIDDEN THERE ARE SEVERAL HISTORICAL HERITAGES AND CULTURES IN ETHIOPIA SPECIALLY IN MONASTRIES YET,THE WORLD IS NOW OVERLOOKING ETHIOPIA’S RELIGION,CULTURE AND BELEIFS SO FORTH…YOU CAN FIND SEVERAL ANCIENT BOOKS WRITTEN IN GE’EEZ LANGUAGE SPECIALLY ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN SPRITUAL BOOKS! I WOULD LIKE TO RECOMMEND THE WORLD TO GIVE HIGHER EMPHASIS FOR ETHIOPIA …..FOR MORE INFORMATION PLEASE VISIT AND DISCOVER THIS LAND OF God!
I know that Ethiopia had the strongest Christianity in the old ages with lots of evidences like this one. But to be honest, the current Christianity is way too weak! compared to the old time. People do not LOVE each other as Christians do. Pleas pray for Ethiopia to recover all the strength that used to be there.
I wonder how this will affect the protestant doctrines of Sola Scriptura?
… ‘All the work on the texts was done in situ and everything is reversible, so if in future they can be taken away for further conservation we won’t have hindered that.
… ‘This was the most astounding of all our projects and the Patriarch, the head of the Ethiopian Church, had to give his permission.
Sorry to say it, but I have a feeling that it is in such a way that Ethiopia lost many of its treasures. I haven’t heard any heritage or discovery that’s returned once it left its origin (Ethiopia) under the name of ‘FURTHER STUDY’. I even wonder how and why the Patriarch gave his permission knowing the past experience of the Ethiopian Orthodox church history – its challenges from external pressures that seemed nothing at the moment but put generations in chaos through time.
John – All eyes are on Ethiopia, not now, centuries before. Believe it or not, the so called ‘developed nations’ are relying on the numerous books stolen from Ethiopia and hidden from the world. You don’t even find some facts about them on internet or you get the fictitious made up history by the ones who own it today. Unlike what’s been said about Ethiopia, in simple words – ETHIOPIA IS THE WORLD AND THE WORLD IS IN ETHIOPIA.
Minilik – The love is still there but the people need to open their eyes and see what’s going on under their nose. The current affairs are the centuries works of the groups who never lay off their eyes from Ethiopia for their SURVIVAL. They are not few individuals but many nations. A lot can be said, but …
Do they have all the Ethopic Bible with all their book’s in it written in English, so i can read it on line, will you please let me know
I know it is a dead language but is there a chance to have a non adulterated translated version of it, me and a good friend of mine think that the older we sink into this type of artifacts the closer we get to God in a sense of speaking of course.
Mr. Ramos, the first concern is to create a digital copy of the entire book and store it so as to assure its preservation since the very pages are already disintegrating. Ge’ez is not offered in current language classes so the language also needs to be recorded and preserved. In order to translate the material into any other language requires that the writer must know both the language you want to read the material in and know Ge’ez. Funding issues will cause great delays in this process. I would likely need to go to Ethiopia to find a means of learning Ge’ez and I would need to raise a significant amount of funds to accomplish that. The Ethiopian authorities would also need to be willing to grant the translator access to the original document and allow it to be duplicated. I hope all of these steps can be taken soon.
This is not a dead language. This is very much a living language.
Are there any photos of the binding as opposed to the text? Is the bible in just two volumes or are the two volumes just the Gospels?
Why does this article speak as if the Garima Gospels are a complete Ethiopic Bible? Can you be specific and honest about the contents of these texts please? Regardless of whether there is a canon of 66, 81, or 88 books, the Gospels are just four of those books.
Also, why are you talking as if the choice of 66 books comes from the KJV, that decision, whether right or wrong, is much older than the KJV. In addition most of the additional books are often included in versions of the KJV and many other more modern translations as part of the Apocrypha. The Garima Gospels are very important, but it is also important to report accurately. There is important learning to be done from this and other biblical documents from Ethiopia – misinformation does not help that process.
Why won’t you list the books???
See more information here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garima_Gospels