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price: 69 euro
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  • print format
year: 2013
isbn: 9789042927537
pages: VIII-87 p.
The Homily of Zär'a Ya'eqob's Mäshafä Berhan on the Rite of Baptism and Religious Instruction

The text in this volume (with its translation) is from the writings of Emperor Zär’a Ya‛eqob, the prolific scholar who reformed the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in the fifteenth century. In this homily, which is part of his previously published Mäshafä Berhan "Book of Light" (see CSCO vols. 250/Script. Aeth. 47 and 261/Script. Aeth. 51), he addresses in detail the ritual of Christian baptism and the requirement of religious instruction for the baptized faithful as well as the would-be baptized catechumens. The ritual for adults is discussed and defined with thoroughness and clarity not found in any other source. Significantly, the text suggests that there was at that time a large number of non-Christians who converted to Orthodox Christianity, either of their own free will or due to pressure from Christian rulers, including the Emperor.

As always, Zär’a Ya‛eqob uses his authority to enforce religious instruction as he details it. He prescribes harsh corporal punishment, usually flogging, to individuals who do not attend school without acceptable excuses—which are illness and going on military expeditions— as well as to clergy who neglect their duty to teach and to district rulers who do not force people to come to school.

A close study of the homily sheds some interesting light on the history of Ethiopic literature. For example, the extensive quotation from Acts is not from the text we now know. This detail corroborates what is known that the book was translated anew after the time of Zär’a Ya‛eqob.

A second example is Zär’a Ya‛eqob’s quotation of John Chrysostom. That he quotes from his homily in the Apophthegmata Patrum shows that this source was well known in Ethiopia prior to the fifteenth century.