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Concerning the evangelization of Ethiopia, Rufinus gives us the following data. Meropius, a philosopher of Tyre, set out on a voyage, having in mind to visit that region which in those days was called India. He brought with him two youths, Edesius and Frumentius, for whose education he was providing. Having concluded their observations, they set sail for their own country, and while passing the coast of Abyssinia, they touched at a certain port for water and other necessary articles. The natives were at that time incensed against Rome, and they set upon Meropius and his crew and slew them. They spared the two youths, Edesius and Frumentius, whom they brought to the King. Edesius was appointed his cup-bearer; and Frumentius, his secretary. Forthwith the King held them in high honor, and love. At his death, he left the kingdom to his Queen and infant son. He gave Edesius and Frumentius their liberty. The Queen besought them, that they would remain and administer the kingdom till her son should come to that estate in which he could sustain the burden of the office. She especially required the help of Frumentius, whose prudence all recognized. They remained, and Frumentius became regent of the realm. As they were both Christians, Frumentius began to make use of his great power by favoring the Christian merchants, who came to the kingdom to trade; and by his exhortation and active help, many churches were constructed, and many natives converted to Christianity. When the Prince came to his majority, Edesius and Frumentius set out for their own country. Edesius came to Tyre, and was made Bishop of that See. Frumentius went to Alexandria and laid before St. Athanasius, the Patriarch, the condition of the land, which he had left, and its need of a bishop and priests.

Athanasius, in a council of priests, elected Frumentius himself to be bishop of the strange country. He soon after received ordination and consecration from St. Athanasius, and returned to the scene of his first labors. The richest fruits rewarded his apostolic labors, and an immense number of the natives received the faith of Christ. Rufinus declares that he received these data from Edesius himself. (P. L. Migne, 21, 478.)

This would bring the evangelization of Abyssinia in the beginning of the fourth century. In that time Abyssinia formed the old kingdom of Auxuma.

When Constantius succeeded Constantine, he endeavored to move the King of Auxuma to expel Frumentius, and receive Arianism. This attempt failed, but in the sixth century, through the influence of the Monophysite Patriarchs of Alexandria, the Copts fell into the Monophysite heresy, and there is little of orthodox Catholicity left in the country now.

The Ethiopians call Frumentius, Abba Salama. It is evident that he could make little progress in evangelizing the country by means of Greek Scriptures, of which the people knew nothing. The data seem to warrant that Frumentius chose the Ghez dialect, which was spoken at the court and among the upper classes, and translated into this the Holy Scriptures. We believe, therefore, that the Ethiopic liturgy and version of Scripture go back to the fourth century. The Ghez dialect no longer prevails in Abyssinia. In 1300 the Amharic dialect began to supplant the old Ghez, and now the Amharic is spoken throughout the country. In the years between 1810 and 1820, Asselin de Cherville, the French consul at Cairo, translated, by the aid of Abou-Roumi, the Scriptures into Amharic. His version was purchased by the British Bible Society. J. P. Platt revised it, and published the Gospels in 1824. He published the whole New Testament in 1829, and the whole Bible in 1842. In 1875 the society published a new edition, under the supervision of Krapf and several Abyssinians.

An inspection of the Ethiopic text, clearly reveals that it was made from the Greek. Many difficult Greek words are left untranslated. Certain errors also are explained from a misapprehension of the Greek text. Evidences are found that more than one interpreter labored in the translation. The original interpreters followed the Greek text closely, and the edition would be of much critical worth in restoring the Greek text of that age, if it had come down to us uncorrupt; but great freedom was used by later hands in interpolating many passages, so that a critical edition is necessary before the book will be of any critical worth.

No complete edition of the ancient text has ever been published. In 1513 John Potken published the Psalter and some canticles from the New Testament. In 1518 he published the Canticle of Canticles. In 1548 the New Testament was published at Rome. Some other unimportant and modern editions have been wrought, but the codices anterior to the fifteenth century have not been examined, and the outlook for the old text seems dark.








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