Bible texts in Amharic

(1) Translations before Abba Abraham

1.1 Translated / amended by Jesuits (in the 1620/30s)

» View Catholic Amharic Bible Translations

1.2 Translated / edited by Peter Heyling (alias Muallim Petros, 1607/8–1652)

Heyling’s version of the Gospel of John was in great demand in Gonder in 1647 (Ludolph, Heyling, p. 177). There are no longer any copies of Heyling’s Bible translations, but his ministry influenced the founding of an evangelical movement (see Arén, Pioneers, p. 37f, 409; Arén, Envoys, p. 134f, 139).

References

Arén, Gustav. Evangelical Pioneers in Ethiopia. Stockholm and Addis Ababa 1978. [View online]

—. Envoys of the Gospel in Ethiopia: In the Steps of the Evangelical Pioneers 1898‒1936. Stockholm and Addis Ababa 1999. [View online]

Ludolph, Hiob. Sonderbarer Lebens-Lauff Herrn Peter Heylings […]. Edited by H. Michaelis. Halle 1724. [Google Books]

1.3 Commissioned by James Bruce (1730–94)

Songs of Songs. Probably translated in 1770/71. Bruce ms. 94, Bodleian Library, Oxford. [View online]


(2) Translation by Abba Abraham alias Abu Rumi (approx. 1749/50–1818)

The first Bible to be printed in Amharic was based on a manuscript by an Ethiopian scholar in Cairo, Abba Abraham (better known by his Arabic name Abu Rumi). Abba Abraham translated the Bible from Arabic into Amharic over the course of 10 years, starting in 1807. The French vice-consul Asselin de Cherville claimed that he helped by looking up Hebrew, Greek and Syriac Bible texts when difficulties arose with the translation.

Abba Abraham’s manuscript is now located at the Bible & Foreign Bible Society Archive at Cambridge University Library.

  • The main manuscript includes the proto- and deuterocanonical writings of the Bible but not Isaiah, Jeremiah and Lamentations [GBR/0374/BFBS/BSMS 15]
  • Genesis and Exodus, submitted by Asselin de Cherville to the BFBS in Nov. 1814 [GBR/0374/BFBS/BSMS 16]

This translation was the basis for almost all Amharic Bibles printed until the 1960.

  • A facsimile of Matthew 1 and a specimen of Mark 9 were printed in Platt, Catalogue of Ethiopic Biblical Manuscripts, London 1823. [View online]

2.1 Edited by Thomas Pell Platt (1798–1852)

published in 1824:

Evangelia Sancta: Sub auspiciis D. Asselini rerum gallicarum apud aegyptios procuratoris in linguam amharicam vertit Abu-Rumi habessinus [The Holy Gospels: Translated into the Amharic language by the Abyssinian Abu-Rumi under the auspices of D. Asselin (de Cherville), procurator of French affairs (i.e. French Vice-Consul) among the Egyptians]. Ed. Thomas Pell Platt. London: R. Watts, 1824. [Printed at the expense of the British & Foreign Bible Society (BFBS); view online (Munich DigitiZation Center)]

  • Cf. Darlow & Moule, Historical Catalogue, # 1556:
    “The translation was made from the Arabic corrected by the Vulgate [i.e., the Latin Bible], with collateral help from the Hebrew, Greek and Syriac. Edited by T.P. Platt (1798-1852), subsequently Honorary Librarian of the B.F.B.S., assisted by Samuel Lee, Professor of Arabic at Cambridge, and W. [i.e., William] Jowett, of the C.M.S.”
1829:

(Acts – Revelation).

  • Darlow & Moule, Historical Catalogue, # 1557:
    “Some copies of the Acts and Romans appear to have been bound up separately, and sent out to Abyssinia in 1828, before the rest of the book was ready.”

Novum Testamentum domini nostri et servatoris Jesu Christi: Sub auspiciis D. Asselini rerum gallicarum apud aegyptios procuratoris in linguam amharicam vertit Abu-Rumi habessinus [The New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (…)] Ed. Thomas Pell Platt. London: R. Watts, 1829. [Printed at the expense of the BFBS; Google Books]

1833:

Psalterium Davidis Amharice: Sub auspiciis D. Asselinii rerum gallicarum apud aegyptios procuratoris in linguam amharicam vertit Abu-Rumi habessinus [David’s Psalter in Amharic (…)]. London: R. Watts, 1833. [Printed at the expense of the BFBS; view Ps 1–23 online]

  • Reprinted together with other parts of the Holy Scriptures in 1842 in the Amharic Book of Common Prayer (translated by Karl Wilhelm Isenberg)
1837:

Ōrīt za-Mūsē [The Pentateuch in Amharic]. London: British and Foreign Bible Society, 1837. [Copy available at the British Library]

  • Darlow & Moule, Historical Catalogue, vol. II, p. 50:
    “The Pentateuch passed through the press in 1834 [correct: 1837], when, at the request of the C.M.S., 1,000 copies were bound, and sent out to Abyssinia.”
1840:

Biblia Sacra Amharice: Sub auspiciis D. Asselini rerum gallicarum apud aegyptios procuratoris in linguam amharicam vertit Abu-Rumi habessinus [The Holy Bible in Amharic (…)]. 1st edition. London: R. Watts, 1840). [Printed at the expense of the BFBS; view excerpts online]

  • Darlow & Moule, Historical Catalogue, # 1560:
    “In a note on verso of title the editor states that he left the earlier portion of Abu Rumi’s MS version almost untouched—fere intactam reliqui—but in the later parts, following the suggestions of Samuel Gobat (C.M.S. missionary in Abyssinia and afterwards Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem), he made many alterations and corrections from the Hebrew and Greek.”
  • It appears that Platt revised the edition of St. John’s Gospel that he had published in 1824. The BFBS Library holds a manuscript with collations and corrections he sent to Rev. J. Jowett between 1832 an 1833 [GBR/0374/BFBS/BSMS 19].
1844:

Biblia Sacra Amharice: Sub auspiciis D. Asselini rerum gallicarum apud aegyptios procuratoris in linguam amharicam vertit Abu-Rumi habessinus [The Holy Bible in Amharic (…)]. 2nd edition. London: R. Watts, 1844. [Revised Pentateuch; printed at the expense of the BFBS; view online (Munich DigitiZation Center)]

  • Darlow & Moule, Historical Catalogue, # 1562:
    “In an additional note (dated 2 Jan. 1844) on verso of title, the editor, T.P. Platt, states that, owing to the advance issue of many copies of the Pentateuch (see No. 1560), a reprint of that portion became necessary. He seized this opportunity to make many emendations in the Pentateuch, correcting Abu Rumi’s version by the Hebrew text, with the help of C. W. Isenberg.  The rest of the book was left unaltered.”

2.2 Edited by Karl Heinrich Blumhardt (1808–83)

publ. in 1852:

Novum Testamentum Domini Nostri et Salvatoris Jesu Christi in linguam Amharicam vertit Abu-Rumi Habessinus. Nova editio cum levibus variationibus [The New Testament of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ translated into Amharic by Abu-Rumi the Abyssinian. New edition with slight variations]. Ed. by Karl Heinrich [Engl. Charles Henry] Blumhardt. London: William M. Watts, 1852. [Printed at the expense of the BFBS; view at Austrian National Library, Google Books].

2.3 Edited by Johann Ludwig Krapf (1810–81)

2.3.1 Amharic
publ. in 1860:

Psalterium Davidis Amharice, revised by John Ludwig Krapf, C.M.S. Missionary in Abyssinia and Elsewhere. London: The British and Foreign Bible Society, 1860. [Copy available at Cambridge Univ. Library]

1864:

(St. Luke)
(St. John)
(Romans)
(Galatians to Colossians)
(Hebrews)

  • Coldham, Bibliography, # 51:
    “All the books of the N.T., revised by J. L. Krapf, appeared during 1864-5 in twelve separate portions. Each has an English and Amharic title. The former bears the imprint: ‘Printed at the Mission-Press on St. Chrischona in Switzerland. At the request and expense of the British and Foreign Bible Society.'”‘ These portions were afterwards bound up to form a complete N.T., which was issued in 1866”
  • Reprints:
    St. Luke. St. Chrischona (for the BFBS), 1883.
    St. John. St. Chrischona (for the BFBS), 1884.
1865:

(St. Matthew)
(St. Mark)
(The Acts)
(Corinthians)
The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Thessalonians, Thimothy [!], Titus and Philemon in the Amharic language
(James to Jude)
(The Revelation)

1866:

Novum Testamentum in linguam Amharicam vertit Abu-Rumi Habessinus [New Testament translated into Amharic by Abu-Rumi, the Abyssinian]. Revised by Johann Ludwig Krapf. Basle (Switzerland): F. Spittler, 1866. [View online; reprint 1946]

  • Darlow & Moule, Historical Catalogue, # 1577:
    “Made up of the twelve separate portions printed at St. Chrischona in 1864‒5 […]. Krapf acted for a time as interpreter to Lord Napier’s expedition […, in 1868], and many copies of this Testament were circulated by him in Abyssinia.”
  • 2nd edition. St. Chrischona: Mission Press, 1870. [Google Books]
1871-73:

The Books of the Old Testament, translated into the Amharic language by Abba Rukh, an Abyssinian Learned. For the first Time corrected and edited in England by the Rev. Thomas Platt, M.A. Now improved after the Hebrew Original by the Rev. Dr. Krapf in Germany. St. Chrischona: Mission Press, 1871-73. [Printed by the expense and by the request of the BFBS]

  • First Part containing
    The five books of Moses. The book of Joshua. The book of Judges. The book of Ruth
    . St. Chrischona 1871. [Google Books]
  • From the first book of Samuel to the Song of Solomon in Amharic: The second part of the Old Testament. St. Chrischona 1873. [Google Books]
  • The books of the Prophets in Amharic: The third part of the Old Testament. St. Chrischona 1873. [Google Books]
2.3.2 Ge’ez and Amharic
publ. in 1874:

Evangelia sacra Domini nostri et Salvatoris Jesu Christi: Aethiopice et Amharice. Basle: C.F. Spittler, 1874. [Printed by the expense and by the request of the BFBS at the Mission Press in St. Chrischona]. [View at Austrian National Library; Google Books]

  • Coldham, Bibliography, # 69:
    “Issued by the B.F.B.S. at the special request of the Emperor of Ethiopia [i.e. Yohannes IV]. […]
    The Four Gospels were also issued as a separate portion. […]
    Reproduced by photography in 1906.”
1878:

Epistolae Apostolorum Domini nostri et salvatoris Jesu Christi : aethiopice et amharice [Epistles of the Apostles of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in Ge’ez and Amharic]. Basle: C. F. Spittler, 1878. [Printed at the request and by the expense of the BFBS at the Mission Press in St. Chrischona]. [Bonn University]

  • Coldham, Bibliography, # 70:
    “Issued by the B.F.B.S. at the special request of the Emperor of Ethiopia [i.e. Yohannes IV].”
    [Assistant in Korntal: Gebru Desta]

2.4 Edited by Johannes Martin Flad (with the assistance of Mika’el Arägawi)

2.4.1 Amharic
publ. in 1886/87:

The New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, in Amharic. St. Chrischona: Mission Press, 1886. [Printed at the expenses of the BFBS; view online at HathiTrust]

  • Darlow & Moule, Historical Catalogue, # 1588:
    “Krapf’s edition, revised by J.M. Flad, with the assistance of a native missionary, Orgawi, who had served twelve years in Abyssinia”
  • In 1886, the SPCK published The Coloured Picture Bible for Abyssinian Children in Amharic. [View online]

The Holy Bible containing the Old and New Testaments [in Amharic]. St. Chrischona: Mission Press, 1886 [according to the Amharic text: 1887]. [Printed at the expenses of the BFBS; view online at Hamburg Univ. Library]

  • Reprints: 1915, 1933.
2.4.2 Ge’ez and Amharic
publ. in 1872:

Psalterium Davidis: Aethiopice et Amharice. Basle (Switzerland): C. F. Spittler, 1872. [Google Books; reprints 1902, 1904, 1913]

  • Darlow & Moule, Historical Catalogue, # 1580:
    “The Amharic text is based on that printed in 1842 by the S.P.C.K. [i.e., The Book of Common Prayer, transl. by Isenberg]. Edited by J. M. Flad, of the London Jews Society.”
  • Coldham, Bibliography, # 66:
    “Printed at the expense of the S.P.C.K. and the Bible Societies of Stuttgart and Basel. The B.F.B.S. paid for the binding.”
  • Reprints: 1902, 1904, 1913.

2.5 Edited by Hiruy Wolde Selassie (blatten geta) and others

2.5.1 Amharic, facing a Ge’ez translation

_ _ _ (Four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles). Translated by Hiruy Wolde Selassie. Addis Ababa: Royal Press, 1928.

  • Coldham, Bibliography, # 85:
    “The Ethiopic is the traditional text, and the Amharic is a new translation [of the Ge’ez source] by Bilateyn Gyeta Herouy (formerly Bilata Herouy), a Secretary of State.”
2.5.2 Amharic, facing an Oromo translation
publ. in 1929:

_ _ _ (St. John). Addis Ababa: King Tafari’s Royal Press, 1929.

  • Coldham, Bibliography, # 86:
    “In Amharic and Northern Galla [i.e., Onesimos Nesib’s translation] on opposite pages. The Amharic text is a revision of No. 73 [Holy Bible, Krapf’s edition revised by J. M. Flad and Mika’el Aregawi, St. Chrischona 1886], prepared by B.G. Herouy [Wolde Selassie] and O. Eriksson, Swedish M.”
  • The original Amharic manuscript, completed in 1925, also included St. Luke. Location: Cambridge Univ. Library, BFBS Archive; Ref. Code: GBR/0374/BFBS/BSMS 21.
1933:

_ _ _ (St. Luke). Addis Ababa: British and Foreign Bible Society, 1933.

  • Coldham, Bibliography, # 87:
    “In Amharic and Northern Galla on opposite pages. The Amharic text is a revision by B.G. Herouy and O. Eriksson.”
  • The Amharic manuscript was completed in 1925. Location: Cambridge Univ. Library, BFBS Archive: GBR/0374/BFBS/BSMS 20
2.5.3 Amharic only
1937:

_ _ _ [The New Testament and Psalms]. Printed privately, [London] 1937.

  • Coldham, Bibliography, # 94:
    “A photographic version of an Ethiopic manuscript with Amharic translation made under the auspices of Haile Selassie by Nebura Id Tekle [father’s name?], Alaka Herui [Wolde Selassie], Alaka Lama [father’s name?], and Alaka Quatsala [father’s name?]. One of an edition of twelve copies containing references to Haile Selassie at the beginning of the four Gospels and in the colophon. […]
    Another copy, without references to Haile Selassie.”

2.6 Edited by Simon Röstin and others

1935:

_ _ _ (St. Luke). Addis Ababa: British and Foreign Bible Society, 1935.

  • Coltham, Bibliography, # 90:
    “An edition of 10,000 copies was printed for distribution among Ethiopian soldiers during the war between Ethiopia and Italy.”
  • Coltham, Supplement, p. 188
    [corrections and additions to her Bibliography]:
    “A revision by a committee including N.[ils] Nilsson, Swedish Evangelical M., S.[imon] N. Röstin, Bibeltrogna Vänner, Ato Araye and Ato Wolde Semait”
  • Copy available at Cambridge Univ. Library [BSS.318.F35.1]
  • Reprinted in 1947 [Cambridge Univ. Library, BSS.318.F47.3]

_ _ _ (St. Mark). Addis Ababa: British and Foreign Bible Society, 1935.

  • Cf. Coltham, Bibliography, # 91. Coltham, Supplement, p. 188:
    “A revision by a committee including N. Nilsson, S.N. Röstin, Ato Araye and Ato Wolde Semait”
  • Copy available at Cambridge Univ. Library [BSS.318.F35.2]
  • Reprinted in 1947 [Cambridge Univ. Library, BSS.318.F47.2]
  • The original Amharic manuscript (written in 1928) included also a revised translation of St. John, which was not printed
    [True? See below the entry under the year 1936].
    Location: Cambridge Univ. Library, BFBS Archive;
    manuscript GBR/0374/BFBS/BSMS 22
1936:

_ _ _ (St. John). Addis Ababa: British and Foreign Bible Society, 1936.

  • Cf. Coltham, Bibliography, # 92. Coltham, Supplement, p. 188:
    “A revision by a committee including N. Nilsson, S.N. Röstin, Ato Araye and Ato Wolde Semait”
  • Copy available at Cambridge Univ. Library [BSS.318.F36.1]
  • Reprinted in 1947 [Cambridge Univ. Library, BSS.318.F47.4]

_ _ _ (St. Matthew). Addis Ababa: British and Foreign Bible Society, 1936.

  • Cf. Coltham, Bibliography, # 93. Coltham, Supplement, p. 188:
    “A revision by a committee including N. Nilsson, S.N. Röstin, Ato Araye and Ato Wolde Semait”
  • Copy available at Cambridge Univ. Library [BSS.318.F36.2]
  • Reprinted in 1947 [Cambridge Univ. Library, BSS.318.F47.1]

2.7 Edited by N.N.

1942 [1934 A.M.]:

(?) ወንጌል ቅዱስ ዘከመ ጸሐፈ ዮሐንስ [St. John]. Addis Ababa: Artistic, 1941/42 [1934 A.M.] [View online]

19xx:

Barnhouse New Testament. [View 4 Gospels online]

References

Arén, Gustav. Envoys of the Gospel in Ethiopia: In the Steps of the Evangelical Pioneers 1898-1936. Stockholm and Addis Ababa 1999. [Esp. p. 123‒28, 135, 142‒43, 215‒17, 240‒42; view online]

Grubb, Norman. Alfred Buxton of Abyssinia and Congo. London and Redhill: Lutterworth, 1942. [Esp. p. 122, 159-160, view online]

Matthew, Austin Frederic. “The Revision of the Amharic New Testament”, The Bible Translator 7, no. 2 (1956): 72-76. [View online]


(3) “Haile Selassie Bible”

Publ. in 1949:

_ _ _ (St. Mark). Addis Ababa: Royal Press, 1949.

  • Coldham, Bibliography, # 100:
    “A tentative edition of a revision prepared by a joint committee of missionaries and Ethiopians appointed by H.I.M. and the B.F.B.S. The Committee included Marze Hazen (Chairman), A. F. Matthew [Society for the Propagation of the Gospel], and Araya Selassie. The verso of the title reads: Revised by command of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I.”
1955:

_ _ _ (The New Testament). Addis Ababa: The Royal Press, 1955.

  • Coldham, Bibliography, # 107:
    “A revision prepared by a joint committee appointed by the Emperor and the B.F.B.S. [s. above, St. Mark, 1949]. With references prepared by A.F. Matthew, A. F. Strong, S.I.M., L. V. D. Ashley, and Ato Teklemariam Haile.”
  • Manuscript completed in 1948 A.M. (1955/1956 A.D.). Location: Cambridge Univ. Library, GBR/0374/BFBS/BSMS 23.
1961:

Maṣḥaf Qedus: Yabeluynā yahadis kidān maṣāḥeft. [The Holy Bible: Old Testament and New Testament]. Addis Ababa: The Royal Press [Berhanena Salam], 1961.

  • Coldham, Bibliography, # 116:
    “A revision prepared by a joint committee appointed by the Emperor and the B.F.B.S. [s. above]. With Apocrypha. Preface by the Emperor.”
1962:

Maṣḥaf Qedus: Yabeluynā yahadis kidān maṣāḥeft. [The Holy Bible: Old Testament and New Testament]. London: British and Foreign Bible Society, 1962.

  • Coldham, Bibliography, # 117:
    “A reprint of the 1961 edition, in smaller size, without Apocrypha [i.e., ‘Protestant’ edition]. With references in the N.T.”
References

Asfaw Damte. “Märsəʿe Ḫazän Wäldä Qirqos” in Encyclopaedia Aethiopica, vol. 3, ed. S. Uhlig. p. 798‒99. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2007.

Launhardt, Johannes. Evangelicals in Addis Ababa (1919‒1991) […]. Münster: Lit, 2004. [On Rev. Canon A. F. Matthew, see p. 64]

Matthew, A. F. “The Revision of the Amharic New Testament”, The Bible Translator 7, no. 2 (1956): 72-76. [View online]


(4) Contemporary Translations

4.1 UBS Versions (1987)

» View Old Testament and New Testament online

  • Wikipedia, “Bible translations into Amharic“:
    “Under the Bible Society of Ethiopia (a member of the United Bible Societies), a new translation was printed in 1987, translated directly from Hebrew and Greek. […] These versions contain only the 66 books of the Protestant canon, and they have not been widely embraced by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.”
  • Revised edition: 2005.
4.2 Internation Bible Society [now: Biblica] Version (2001)

» View online

  • Wikipedia, “Bible translations into Amharic“:
    “This translation uses an informal language style and applies a meaning-based translation philosophy. It is translated from the biblical languages. The Old Testament was completed in 2001 and the New Testament in 1988.”

» View previous version of the New Testament online (Living Bibles International, 1985)

4.3 Millenium Amharic Bible (2007)
  • Wikipedia, “Bible translations into Amharic“:
    “For the millennium celebration on the Ethiopian calendar, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Ethiopian Bible Society produced a new translation. This translation differed from recent Amharic translations in that the translators generally followed the Greek Septuagint (LXX) translation for the Old Testament and the Ge’ez for both the Old and the New. It was warmly welcomed by the Orthodox […]”
Further Reading

Several contemporary Amharic Bible translations are available as Android Apps

Bruk Ayele Asale. “A millennium translation based on the Ge’ez and LXX: A new Bible translation in the Ethiopian church and its controversy.” The Bible Translator 65, no. 1 (2014): 49-73. [View online; subscription barrier]


Catalogues of Bible translations

Darlow, Thomas H. and Horace F. Moule (compilers). Historical Catalogue of the Printed Editions of Holy Scripture in the Library of the British and Foreign Bible Society. Vol. II (in 3 parts): Polyglots and Languages other than English. London: Bible House, 1911. (Reprints: New York: Klaus Reprint, 1963, and Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2022 [Google Books].

  • The entries in this publication are referenced by their running numbers.

Coldham, Geraldine E. (compiler). A Bibliography of Scriptures in African Languages: A revision of the African sections of the Darlow and Moule ‘Historical Catalogue of Printed Editions of the Holy Scripture’, with additions to 1964. 2 vols. London: The British and Foreign Bible Society, 1966.

  • The entries in this publication are referenced by their running numbers (The entry number in Darlow & Moule is added in brackets).

—. Supplement (1964 ‒ 1974) to A Bibliography of Scriptures in African Languages (BFBS, London, 1966). London: British and Foreign Bible Society, 1975.

  • The entries in this publication are referenced by their running numbers (preceded by an “S”).