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From the Pre-face


From the Preface, page X to XII


The want of a translation into some European language of the


long felt by students of the Literatures of Oriental Christianity.

For none of the extracts printed in Ethiopic, and none of the

general descriptions of that work in German or English that are

found in the published accounts of Ethiopic Literature, have

succeeded in giving a true idea of the nature and scope and

variety of the contents of that voluminous work. For some

years Bruce's incorrect and contemptuous description of the

"Synaxar" (see p. xxxiii) prevented students from examining the

manuscripts of the MASHAFA SENKESÅR for themselves, and

it was not until Dillmann and Professor William Wright of

Cambridge had published lists of the contents of the Codices

in the British Museum and Bodleian Library, that the historian

and theologian regarded the work as worthy of serious study.

Wright was no sentimental admirer of the literature of miracles,

whether Ethiopian or European, but he certainly did regard

the MASHAFA SENKESÅR as a work of very considerable

historical and religious value. On many occasions in 1882 and

1883, when reading with him the extracts from it in the section

"De viris sanctis" in Dillmann's Chrestomathia Aethiopica, he

impressed upon me the importance of reading the whole work

for the sake of the historical facts which were to be found in

it throughout. As Wright had read through, for cataloguing

purposes, the whole of the 350 manuscripts which the British

Army brought back from Makdalå, I regarded and, having

read through the book, still regard his opinion as incontro-




The translation printed in the following pages has been made

from the famous Codex in the British Museum (Orient. Nos.

660 and 661) which was copied by the scribe Takla Hâymânôt

in one year and one month. It was begun in the 21st year of the

reign of Fåsiladas, King of Abyssinia (A.M. 7111=A.D. 1654-55).

The manuscript is well written, and Takla Hâymânôt was

evidently a competent scribe; here and there he omits words,

and even whole lines, but the manuscript is one of the best

examples of the Second Recension of the MASHAFA SENKESÅR

to which it belongs. The few passages which contain faulty or

defective readings are indicated by dots ….. The translation

has been made as literal as possible, and the Ethiopic text of

the manuscripts is so good that only a few passages have

needed paraphrasing. The proper names are a subject of con-

siderable difficulty. The Ethiopian scribe made his translations

of them from the Arabic version of the Jacobite Synaxarium,

in which many Greek and Roman names appear in corrupt

forms. In some of the sections two or three, and even four,

different forms of the same name will be found. And many of

the saints who are commemorated I have found it impossible

to identify.

The MASHAFA SENKESÅR is a vast storehouse of Christian

legends and traditions and popular folk-lore, and as a whole it

illustrates clearly the history of Egyptian, Nubian and Ethio-

pian Christianity for a period of about thirteen hundred years.

Some of the historical statements made in it are incorrect,

facts are distorted, the actions of religious opponents are mis-

represented, the sufferings and numbers of the martyrs are

exaggerated, and the miracles out-miracle those recorded in the

Old and New Testaments; but in spite of all this the work is

full of interesting information, much of which is found nowhere

else. The esteem in which the book was held in Abyssinia is

proved by the existence of the large number of copies of it

which are now preserved in the great libraries on the Continent

and in England. The full history of its origin and growth and

development has yet to be written, but this can hardly be done

until the whole of the Ethiopic text has been printed.

In the Introduction to this translation the reader will find

sections in which the compilation and the general contents of

the MASHAFA SENKESÅR are described, and the lists of the

Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch and Constantinople, and

the Popes of Rome, with their dates, which have been drawn

up and checked with the aid of the invaluable work of M.

Chaine, will be found useful for chronological purposes. The

Index of proper names and things has been made tolerably

full, for to a work of such miscellaneous contents an Index of

this kind is absolutely necessary. The reading of the proofs has

been a laborious task, but I have been greatly helped by the

readers of the Cambridge Press, whose skill and accuracy are

well known, and I am grateful for their suggestions and help.

And my thanks are due also to Mr S.C. Roberts, Secretary

 to the Syndics of the Press, and to their printer, Mr Lewis, for

the care they have shown in the production of this book.



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November 2Ist, I927.