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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Oldest known illustrated Bible discovered in Ethiopia

I've long been fascinated by the history of Christianity in places like India and Ethiopia. There exist today in western India congregations of the faithful that claim - with some evidence - to have been founded by the apostle Thomas in the years following the earthly ministry of Jesus. And then there is Ethiopia: a land where Christianity is said to have arrived courtesy of the eunuch chronicled in the Book of Acts, chapter 8.

Add another page to the intriguing history of the faith in that land long known as Aksum: the world's oldest surviving illustrated Christian Bible has been found in an Ethiopian monastery. The Garima Gospels, printed on goatskin and written in the ancient Ge'ez language, is also said to be the oldest surviving book anywhere that still has the original binding.

So how old is this thing? The Garima Gospels have been dated back at around the Fourth Century A.D.

Sixteen hundred years old. And the illustrations - depicting the writers Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, as well as the earliest known Christian rendering of a building (possibly the Temple of Jerusalem) - are still as vivid and colorful as when they were first drawn.

This is turning into quite an exciting time for biblical archaeology. Late last month the earliest known icons of Peter and Paul were announced as being discovered in the catacombs beneath Rome (they used lasers to uncover them: wicked kewl aye?), and now this. Unfortunately whether that alleged thingy on the slopes of Mount Ararat really is Noah's Ark is still anybody's guess. But hey: there should be some things we can't know for sure with just our physical senses...

...'cuz that's why it's called "faith" :-)


Ancious said...


Anonymous said...

Yep religion is FASCINATING :D

Danny de Gracia, II said...

I'm humming the ending theme to "Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade" as I read this article ...