Home » Apocrypha Stuff » Ethiopian Canon, is that Maccabees or Meqabyan…?

Ethiopian Canon, is that Maccabees or Meqabyan…?


Often I have vast fun looking at the various canons which have been produced, but I’ve come to the conclusion at one point that the Ethiopian Canon is one of the most confusing ones of them all.  Still their canon offer some intriguing books to look at.

The Ethiopian Canon[1] whiling including the Jewish OT also boasts such books as 1 Enoch and Jubilees[2] as well as most of the same books of the deuterocanon[3] that the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches do[4].  However though when one takes a closer look at the book of Maccabees one finds out that the Ethiopian books are actually different from that our well known stories of Judah and brothers. There are actually three different book of Maccabees or Meqabyan[5].

The first one stars Meqabis and his sons who stay true to Yahweh even to death, due to a wicked idol worshiper called Tsirutsaydan (king of Media).  The second one actually takes place before that and in it a King (now of Moab) named Meqabis is warring with Israel (naturally as a punishment), but in the end he repents and then teaches the Torah.  The third book is a mix bag talking about “salvation and punishment,” as seen from the various great men of the faith, such as Adam, David, Job, etc[6].

Also they have their own book of Josephus “The Book of Josephas the Son of Bengorion.”   Evidently it is not the same well known works of Josephus, but instead according to Crowley based on it.  According to Harden Aseneth, probably the fun tale of Joseph and Aseneth is to be found in the canon (I’m assuming the broader canon however)[7][8].

As for the New Testament its make up includes all the books which everyone agrees on.  However there are more books included with it[9].  One[10] book, “Sinodos,” is broken into four parts Sirate Tsion, Tizaz, Gitsew, and Abtilis and is about church order and what not. The two book of Dominos or The Book of the Covenant are again about church order, but they also contain a discourse of Jesus after the resurrection.  The book Clement is not the same as the Epistles, but rather is a communication to Clement from Saint Peter.

The Didascalia is similar to Didascalia of the Apostles, but again is actually different[11]. Also Harden makes mentioned that the Shepherd of Hermas seems to be a part of the Broader canon (a version in Ethiopic appearing), but according to Crowley this doesn’t seem to be the case any longer.

In any case, while that summary is albeit brief I would recommend that if interested one should try to locate some of the books to read, Enoch and Jubilees are particularly interesting, after all Jude seemed to kind of like Enoch[12].

[1] Please note there are two versions of their canon, a Narrower and Broader Canon… refer to the articles and works mentioned below to read more up on this issue.

[2] On Jubilees’ text note Vanderkam’s The Book of Jubilees: A Critical Text p. ix “It is now generally accepted, however, that the book was written in Hebrew, translated from Hebrew into Greek, and from Greek into Latin and Ethiopic.”

[3] It would seem that most of the books are based on their Greek versions.  R. H. Charles in Apocrypha of the Old Testament Notes on Tobit “This is based on Rv. Abbreviations and errors in translation are numerous.” (1:180) and on Sirach “This version is rendered from the Greek, of which it is often a literal translation, but in his desire to make the meaning of the original before him clear the translator often interprets, i.e. he gives a paraphrastic rendering.” (1:290)

[4] For a list visit the offical site http://ethiopianorthodox.org/english/canonical/books.html As an aside Their 2 Ezra and Ezra Sutuel = 1 Esdras and 2 Esdras 3-14 Proverbs is also split into two Messalë 1-24 and Täagsas (noted by Crowley) (I assume Proverbs is thus also spilt on their list Tegsats = Täagsas, Metsihafe Tibeb = Wisdom of Solomon.  Crowley’s Note on Jeremiah “The accepted text of Jeremiah 1-52 is followed by Baruch (5 chapters, but shorter than the LXX text), and Säqoqawä Eremyas. The latter is made up of Lamentations (5 chapters), the epistle to the captives (Lam. 6), the prophecy against Pashhur (Lam. 7 v. 1-5)[10] and ‘the rest of the words of Baruch’ (4 Baruch, Lam. 7 v. 6-11 v. 63).”

[5] Ethiopian Books of Meqabyan 1-3, in Standard English http://www.lulu.com/content/hardcover-book/ethiopian-books-of-meqabyan-1-3-in-standard-english/1911760 and in Iyaric (free) http://web.archive.org/web/20050131211408/http://members.aol.com/abaselama/iyaric.html, Book I, II, III I would like to point out that I’m unsure of how scholarly these two works are, but they seem to be the only available translation of these works.  The Iyaric is admittingly a little hard to read, but because I’m sure how scholarly the works is I’m unwilling to buy the Standard English one.

[6] Taken from Crowley, his article by the by can be found freely here: http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Bible/Text/Canon/ethiopican.html Also If anyone could point me toward this article it would be appreciated R. Cowley, “Old Testament Introduction in the Andemta Commentary Tradition”, Journal of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa, vol. XII no.1, pp. 133-175

[7] Harden’s book is found freely here http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/harden_ethiopic_literature.htm#CHAPTER%20IV

[8] Also one could note that the Ascension of Isaiah seems part of the loose broader canon (Harden)

[9] Again refer to the list from the official site

[10] Again all the following information comes from Crowley’s article

[11] Crowley notes “Incomplete text and translation in T. P. Platt, The Ethiopic Didascalia, London 1834. Complete English translation in J. M. Harden, The Ethiopic Didascalia, London 1920,” the latter can be found on Google Books here http://books.google.com/books?id=0_AOAAAAQAAJ&dq=J.+M.+Harden&as_brr=1&ei=g3G5SqDyOYWIygTU9tW-Dg

[12] As a final note if anyone could point me also in the direction of some other scholarly articles/works not mentioned in this post on the Ethiopian Canon and specifically the books, please do so. ^.^



  1. Feqade says:

    I translated the 3 books of Meqabyan at the link given above, both the Iyaric and Standard English versions. The Standard English version was done in response to those who felt the Iyaric (ie non Standard English) version was “unscholarly”. I am pleased that my Standard English version of Meqabyan has been a minor success with buyers, and I can heartily recommend it as totally accurate translation from Amharic. I can translate Amharic into several languages, am capable of scholarsip, and have another version I’m thinking of publishing with scholarly footnotes.

  2. Le Bel Inconnu says:

    Thanks for the comment. I hope I didn’t offended you, but questing the scholar-ness of the work, If you do indeed produce a copy with footnotes I would be sold, (And if said copy had an appendix of the work in Amharic, that would icing on top of the cake… though at least in my case not really needed as I certainly don’t know that language yet). As it stands now, I’m seriously thinking about picking up a copy. Just so I can do some blog post on it.

    Would you happen to know if the Ethiopian Church Father’s have done any commentaries on it, or have made quotes/allusions to it? Or for that matter if anyone besides R.W. Crowley has done anything substantial work the less common Ethiopian books?

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