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Edition of the Ethiopic Jeremiah cycle

Editor: Konrad Martin Heide

The Bible was translated from Greek into Ethiopic following the introduction of Christianity into the Aksumite Empire (Northern Ethiopia) in the 4th century AD. This Bible translation is of uppermost importance both to Semitic and Ethiopian studies as well as to Old Testament Studies. The Book of Jeremiah is the largest prophetic Book of the Old Testament. It was not included in the critical editions of European scholars of the 19th and 20th centuries. A first attempt to its edition was made about 100 years ago by the theologian and orientalist Josef Schäfers. But Schäfers died in autumn 1916 and his ready to print manuscript was lost in Paris during the First World War. A critical edition of the Ethiopic book of Jeremiah was up to now a desideratum of Ethiopian Studies as well as of Septuagint Studies.

Beginning in 2015, K. Martin Heide has devoted himself to this task. To achieve a critical edition of the Ethiopic Jeremiah cycle, he collated all Ethiopic textual witnesses including the additions of the Ethiopic Jeremiah Cycle, namely the ‚Book of Lamentations‘, the apocryphal additions to the Book of Jeremiah that are known in Septuagint Studies as the ‚Book of Baruch‘, the ‚Letter of Jeremiah‘, and finally the ‚Rest of the Words of Baruch‘ as well as some minor additions.

The edited text will offer valuable insights into the textual character of the earliest accessible Ethiopic version as well as document the later stages of its textual history. New findings on the evolution of the Ethiopic Canon and on its textual history will likely illuminate the importance of the Ethiopic Bible as a textual witness of the Septuagint. During the edition of this voluminous book, the quest for the earliest Vorlagen of the Ethiopic book of Jeremiah as well as for its translation method are in focus.

While there have been about 15 manuscripts available in Schäfers time, we have today access to more than 40 digital copies of newly discovered manuscripts. Some of these came to our knowledge through cooperation with the Ethiopic Manuscript Imaging Project (EMIP) based at George Fox University (Portland / Oregon, USA).

The collation of all manuscripts and the classification of the numerous variants to the Ethiopic recensions (‚versio antiqua‘, so-called ‚Arabic recension‘, and ‚academic recension‘) will be completed by K. Martin Heide in 2022.

In order to discuss the implementation of the extensive project as well as gather new perspectives of modern text analysis and critical methods, a workshop was organized by the Department of Semitic Studies at the University of Marburg on 4th–5th October 2016.