More on the Ge`ez version of the Coptic-Arabic gospel catena

It has taken some time since I wrote this initial article, but I am finally in a position to say somewhat more.

The Gospel problems and solutions by Eusebius was used by the compiler of a now lost Greek catena commentary.  This catena was translated into Coptic (De Lagarde published it) and the Coptic into Arabic. 

The Arabic version then seems to have furnished material for a composition in Ethiopian, in Ge`ez, to be specific.

The Geez adaptation of the Coptic-Arabic gospel catena gives the name of the magi’s ancestor as Zaradas, and continues with the information tabulated below [15]: …

15. The text I have primarily used is B.L. Add. 16220, fol. 10b-11a; EMML 2088 fol. 9a-b has only minor differences.[1]

The source for this is the mess that is Roger Cowley’s Ethiopian Biblical Interpretation, where Cambridge University Press declined to do more than reproduce the typescript.  The book is full of great scholarship, but, as here, subjects are raised without any introduction, on the assumption that everyone will know about this Ge`ez text.  In this case Cowley is investigating the sources for a passage in the Amharic “Andemta commentary”, discussing the Magi, and doing so with great intelligence and learning, but, unfortunately, little concern for the reader.

“BL” is of course the British Library; “EMML” is the “Ethiopian Manuscript Microfilm Library (see 7.2 under W. Macomber and Getatchew Haile)”, which doesn’t take us a  huge distance forward.  It is a reasonable inference from Cowley’s careless remarks that these are two manuscripts of this Geez text.

The British Library is a major research library, so of course its website is useless to the researcher and its catalogues must be found elsewhere.  What else do we expect, in return for our taxes?  I found this information on Add. 16220:

The Manuscripts which here follow in the order of numbers, from No. 16,185 to No. 16,258 inclusive, are in the Ethiopic language, and were presented by the Church Missionary Society. They are all fully described in the “Catalogus Codicum Manuscriptorum Orientalium, qui in Museo Britannico asservantur. Pars III.” Published in 1847. Folio.

In the 160 years following, it seems, nothing more has been done.  The British Library, lazily, has not even troubled to place these paper catalogues online as PDFs.  Thankfully Google Books has it.  But even then, the volume is not organised by shelfmark, nor is there an index.  Dear me, no.  Fortunately Google again rescued me, and I find the item on p.10-11, as “ms. XI.”

It is a catena on Matthew, on f.9-46, preceded by 8 leaves of paschal tables.  Named as being referenced ubique (everywhere) are: John Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, Severus of Antioch, Gregory Nazianzen, Basil the Great, Clement of Rome, Athanasius, Benjamin, Epiphanius, Simon Eremita, Litus, Ausonius, Justus. 

Sadly there is no mention of Eusebius.  But I do not trust catalogues on such things, of course.

Ms. XII is also a catena on Matthew, I notice.

I suppose it is futile to wish that this Ethiopic catena — just 37 leaves — was edited and translated?

  1. [1] R. Cowley, Ethiopian biblical interpretation, p.49.

2 Responses to “More on the Ge`ez version of the Coptic-Arabic gospel catena”


  1. Maureen

    You seem to have managed to understand Ethiopian Biblical Interpretation better than I did. It’s one of those books that looks very useful, if you already know a great deal about the subject.

    To be fair, I imagine that most university presses don’t have the various Ethiopian character sets. But it does seem shabby that they went the typescript route.

  2. Roger Pearse

    Ah, not just me, then?!

    I was very relieved to STOP reading it after 40-odd pages. There’s no division between text and footnotes either, nor any distinction in text size, and the footnotes are often half the page. This means that you can’t easily skim. So tiring…