Materials for the study of the Ethiopian version of the history of al-Makin

The Arabic Christian historians are largely unknown.  Starting in the 9th century, the main ones are Agapius, Eutychius, al-Makin, Bar Hebraeus, and one whom I always forget.

Al-Makin wrote in the 13th century, and contains a version of the Testimonium Flavianum of Josephus, which appears in Shlomo Pines’ much-read but much-misunderstood paper on the subject.  But anyone wishing to consult the text of al-Makin, in Arabic, must find a manuscript; no printed edition exists.  I did attempt to do something about this, a few years ago, but in vain.

Al-Makin, like other Arabic texts, was translated into Ethiopian.  A correspondent writes to tell me about some sources for the Ethiopian version.

Firstly, an article on translation technique from Arabic to Ethiopic,  “Arabisch-äthiopische Übersetzungstechnik am Beispiel der Zena Ayhud (Yosippon) und des Tarika Walda-‘Amid” (i.e. “Arabic-Ethiopian translation techniques using the example of Zena Ayhud (Yosippon) and Tarika Walda-Amid”) by Manfred Kropp, with al-Makin as one of the examples, in the ZDMG, is now online in high resolution here.  In Ethiopian chronicles Al-Makin is known as Giyorgis Walda-Amid (George, son of Amid) while Tarika Walda-Amid (Chronicle of Walda-Amid) is the title given to his “Blessed Collection”.

Kropp has also published a book, Zekra Nagar – Die universalhistorische Einleitung nach Giyorgis Wala-Amid in der Chronikensammlung des Haylu aka (The preface to the Universal History of Giyorgis Walda-Amid in the Chronicle Collection of Haylu” – Haylu was an 18th c. Ethiopian prince).  There is a Google Books preview here.

Modern Ethiopians speak Amharic, not Classical Ethiopic or Ge’ez.  I learn that Prof. Sirgiw Gelaw from Addis Ababa University has prepared a translation of the Ge’ez version of Al-Makin into Amharic.  The manuscript is 560 pages long and is still waiting publication.

A manuscript copy of the Ethiopian version of the first part of Al-Makin – he divides his work into two parts, pre-Islam and post – is actually online at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, here.  The catalogue entry is here.

My thanks to Ezio for all this material!


6 thoughts on “Materials for the study of the Ethiopian version of the history of al-Makin

  1. Probably!

    Pines professes to discuss Agapius; but in fact the sole manuscript of that part of Agapius doesn’t contain those passages. These are culled from Al-Makin.

  2. Pines mistakenly believed he was translating Agapius but the Arabic text is from the history of Al-Makin. The Testimonium Flavianum is present in both authors but considering Al-Makin uses Agapius as a source, his version is an expansion of the former.

  3. The reason Pines did this is that the edition that he used printed the Al-Makin sections as an appendix, on the basis that Al-Makin “must” have copied them from a now lost manuscript of Agapius. But expansion is the rule in Arabic chronicles, and Al-Makin probably did it himself.

  4. ” Starting in the 9th century, the main ones are Agapius, Eutychius, al-Makin, Bar Hebraeus, and one whom I always forget”

    For that last one you might be thinking “Severus“, based on a website edited by some guy called Roger Pearse :^) His history was (finally) compiled and copied in Arabic but most believe it was compiled from Coptic sources, since almost all those Patriarchs were Copts by ethnicity.

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