Bible texts in Tigrinya

(1) Translated by Nathaniel Pearce (1779–1820)

Written in 1819/20:

‘St Mark’s Gospel translated by Nathaniel Pearce at the request of Mr. W. Jowett [CMS]’. Manuscript written in 1819/20. [Cambridge Univ., BFBS Archive, GBR/0374/BFBS/BSMS 17]

  • A specimen of Mark 9 was printed in Platt, Catalogue of Ethiopic Biblical Manuscripts, London 1823. [View online]

‘St John’s Gospel translated by Nathaniel Pearce at the request of Mr. W. Jowett’. Manuscript written in 1819/20. [Cambridge Univ., BFBS Archive, GBR/0374/BFBS/BSMS 472]

  • Darlow & Moule, Catalogue, # 9297 (introduction):
    “In Feb. 1819 W. Jowett, in the course of his journeys in the Levant on behalf of the C.M.S. (see ‘History of the C. M. S.’, 1899, i. 224-231), met at Cairo an English adventurer, Nathanael Pearce, who had lived in Abyssinia for fourteen years, and employed him to translate the Scriptures into the vernacular of Abyssinia. Before his death in 1820 N. Pearce completed a translation of SS. Mark and John’s Gospels—apparently in Tigrinya, though the language is called ‘Tigre’ […]”

(2) Translated by Christian Kugler (1801-30)

ca. 1830:

St. Luke and St. Matthew 5-7. Translated by Christian Kugler (CMS). Manuscript written around 1830 [not 1850!]. [Cambridge Univ., BFBS Archive, GBR/0374/BFBS/BSMS 473]

(3) Translated by debtera Matteos; revised by K. W. Isenberg (1806–64)

publ. in 1866:

Krapf, Johann Ludwig, Karl Wilhelm Isenberg, and debtera Matteos. Evangelia Sacra Jesu Christi sub auspiciis Caroli Guilielmi Isenberg ecclesiae anglicanae Presbyteri, apud Habessinos quondam per sexennium degentis et anno 1864 vita defuncti, in linguam Tigricam vertit Debterea Matheos Habessinus Adoae, Tigriae oppido, natus, nunc primim in lucem edita per Johannem Ludovicum Krapf […]. [Holy Gospels of Jesus Christ, translated into the Tigre (correct: Tigrinya) Language by the Abyssinian debtera Matteos, and revised by the deceased Rev. Mr. Isenberg …]. St. Chrischona: Mission Press, 1866. (Printed at the expense of the British and Foreign Bible Society) [Google Books] [Cf. Darlow & Moule, Catalogue, # 9297]

  • In 1838, there was already a first draft of the most NT book (resource person: Kiddan Mariam; view C. M. Record online)

(4) Edited by Karl Winqvist (1847–1909) or Elsie Winqvist née Hefter (1863–1957)

publ. in 1900:

Wängel qǝddus nay gwäytana mädḥanina Yäsus Krǝstos bǝ-q̄wanqwa tǝgrǝñña [The four Gospels of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ / in the Tigrinja language]. Asmara: Swedish Mission Press, 1900.

  • Harlow & Moule, Catalogue, # 9298:
    “Translated by Karl Winqvist, a missionary of the Swedish Evangelical National Society […] with the help of two native assistants, named Markus Germei [i.e., Marqos Girmai, 1862–1924] and Gebra Istatiiis [i.e., Gebre-Ewostatewos Ze-Mikael, † 1905].”

Zanta mäṣḥaf qǝddus [Narrations of the Holy Book]. Asmara: Swedish Mission Press, 1901.


Ḫaṣṣir zanta mäṣḥaf qǝddus [Short Narrations of the Holy Book]. Asmara: Swedish Mission Press, 1907.

  • 2nd edition published in 1924

Ḥaddiš kidan / Il Nuovo Testamento nella lingua tigrigna [The New Testament in the Tigrinya language]. Asmara: British & Foreign Bible Society, 1909. [Availabe at Cambridge Univ. Library]

  • Harlow & Moule, Catalogue, # 9299:
    “Translated by K. Winqvist with the assistance of native scholars, especially Twolde Medhen Gebre Medhen [i.e., Tewolde-Medhin Gebre-Medhin, † 1930] and Hallaka Twolde Medhen Gabru [i.e., Tewolde-Medhin Gebru, † 1955]. The translation was made from the Greek, with constant reference to the English R.V., and also to the Latin Vulgate and to Ethiopic, Swedish, Danish, German, and Italian versions. […] Of the 5,000 copies printed, 3,000 have an Italian title and preface in place of the English.”
  • 2nd edition: Ḥaddiš kidan. Slightly revised by Mikael Holmer and others. Asmara: British & Foreign Bible Society, 1933. [Cf. Coldham, Bibliography, # 3079

The Book of David / _ _ _ _ [Tigr.]. Asmara: Swedish Evangelical Mission, 1948.

  • Coldham, Bibliography, # 3080:
    “Translated by E. Windqvist, assisted by Embaje Hapteshgi.”

The Book of the Prophet Isaiah / _ _ _ [Tigr.]. Asmara: Swedish Evangelical Mission, 1949.

  • Coldham, Bibliography, # 3081:
    “Translated by E. Windqvist, Embaje Hapteshgi and others.”
    [Often bound with The Book of David, 1948]

Maṣḥāf qǝddus: bǝluyǝn ḥaddǝšǝn kidan [The Holy Book, Old and New Testament]. London, British & Foreign Bible Society, 1956/57 [1949 A.M.].

  • Coldham, Bibliography, # 3082:
    “The translation was begun by T. M. Gebre and H. T. M. Gabru in 1893, under the supervision of K. Windqvist. After the death of K. Windqvist the MS. was revised by M. Holmer and E. Windvist, assited by T. M. Gebre and H. T. M. Gabru. The final revision was prepared by E. Windqvist, E. Habteshgi, and _ _ Meshgebie. The references in the N.T. were prepared by Alessandro and Bruno Tron, and H. S. Bird and _ _ Brunello, American Evangelical M. The type was set up in Eritrea and the sheets reproduced by photography in England.”

Further reading

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].

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.


Neʾešto mäḫfäča mäṣḥäfä qeddus / Piccola Chiave Biblica: in lingua tigrigna [Small Bible key in Tigrinya]. Translated by Tewolde-Medhin Gebru, ed. by Paul Nilsson. Asmara: Swedish Mission Press, 1927

Winqvist, Elsie. “Compelled by the Holy One”. Autobiographical manuscript, edited by her niece, Elisabet Janér, née Winqvist. Stockholm 1958. [Mainly on Elsie Winqvist’s contribution to Bible translation after her husband’s death; read English translation online]


Holmer, Rosa. “Tewolde-Medhin Gebre-Medhin: Pastor – Educator – Linguist”, Quaderni di Studi Etiopici [Asmara] 6/7 (1986), 112–42.

Lundström, Karl Johan. Kenisha: The Roots and Development of The Evangelical Church of Eritrea 1866–1935. Edited by Ezra Gebremedhin. Trenton, etc.: Red Sea Press, 2011.

Senai W. Andemariam. “Who should take the Credit for the Bible Translation Works carried out in Eritrea?” Aethiopica 16 (2013): 102–29. (Online version)

Voigt, Rainer. “Winqvist, Karl”, in Encyclopaedia Aethiopica, vol. 4, ed. S. Uhlig in cooperation with A. Bausi, p. 1188–89. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2010.