Exciting news from one of Christianity’s earliest seats, and the UK Daily Mail:
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. 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. . . . Carbon dating, however, gives a date between 330 and 650 – which tantalisingly overlaps the date Abba Garima arrived in the country.
Ethiopians are old, old Christians; who have persevered in the face of threat and invasion. They are stoic, rather quiet but immovable, even though they are surrounded on all sides by inter-religious turmoil.
The Ethiopian Christians have long claimed to be the keepers of the Ark of the Covenant (a fascinating story), and we see an Ethiopian responding with great joy to the Word, in the Acts of the Apostles:
Then the angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, “Get up and head south on the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert route.”
So he got up and set out. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, 8 that is, the queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury, who had come to Jerusalem to worship,
and was returning home. Seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah.
The Spirit said to Philip, “Go and join up with that chariot.”
Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
He replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him.
This was the scripture passage he was reading: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
In (his) humiliation justice was denied him. Who will tell of his posterity? For his life is taken from the earth.”
Then the eunuch said to Philip in reply, “I beg you, about whom is the prophet saying this? About himself, or about someone else?”
Then Philip opened his mouth and, beginning with this scripture passage, he proclaimed Jesus to him.
As they traveled along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look, there is water. What is to prevent my being baptized?”
Then he ordered the chariot to stop, and Philip and the eunuch both went down into the water, and he baptized him.
When they came out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, but continued on his way rejoicing.
Cool stuff. Of all the Christian churches, the Ethiopian church may be the most mysteriously hopeful.
–Elizabeth Scalia is guestposting for the week, and this is cross-posted at The Anchoress